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THE POETS' BEASTS. 



Uniform with this volume, crown 8vo. cloth extra, 7s. 6d. 

THE POETS' BIRDS. 

By PHIL ROBINSON, Author of "Noah's Ark," &c. 

" Mr. Phil Robinson's new volume — a book which may be described as one half classi- 
fied extracts from the poets, the other half a humorous defence of birds whom they 
have neglected or maligned— is a very pleasant one. The one half of Mr. K 
book may be set against the other; and an atrtholof tsins poems like 

Skylark,' and a hundred touches, at once truthful and imagin.v 
Keats and Byron and Burns, and man)' a lesser poet of the - lhame or 

1-eyden, more than compensates for a certain want of variety in the allusions to green- 
finches and crakes, and a too great tendency to describe all the less important song- 
birds as 'twittering.' But either half is very' pleasant reading, and more es; i 

combine with a love of poetry some knowledge of the wooc^ 
James's Gazette. 

"Mr. Phil Robinson has hit upon a happy idea. . . . Throughout the tx 
struck both by the author's exceptional knowledge of bird-nature a: - 
exceptional industry in the accumulation of material . . . We can hardly be too hearty 
in our praise. The work is not only of great interest but of solid usefulness. —Derby 
Mercury. 

" Both informative and entertaining." — Scotsman. 

..iply delightful book."— Illujtra ted London News. 

" Mr. Phil RoLinvon writes so charm] 
let off for having given us so much of the poets and so little of hi-n^elf in this fat and 
well-filled volume. His book CO -:rung to- 

■ is as usual Of 

- 

y of his wonte: .al of genuinely 

: all the delicate 
refinements of form in poetry, might do worse than take a leaf as to ■. 
matter out of his amusing book. It is needk 
studied from the very' life, that out of the fall 
tongue has spoken words of wisdom on all the f 
from England to the Cape of Good Hope- T* 

information, and minute zoolcv 



" The book is remarkable both in its conception and execution, and does great 

whose knowledge of English poetry in 
its full extent can hardly be surpassed.' —Tablet. 

CHATTO eV WINDUS, Piccadilly, W. 



THE POETS' BEASTS 



A SEQUEL TO "THE POETS' BIRDS ' 



BY 



PHIL ROBINSON 

AUTHOR OF 

IN MY INDIAN GARDEN," " NOAH'S ARK," " UNDER THE PUNKAH, 

''SINNERS AND SAINTS," "THE POETS' BIRDS," ETC. 




Hontoon 

CHATTO AND VVINDUS, PICCADILLY 

1885 

[The right of translation is reserved] 



BALLANTYNE, HANSON AND CO. 
BDINBUECM ANO LONDON 



Zbis Volume 

IS MOST GRATEFULLY DEDICATED TO 
TWO POETS, 

JEAN INGE LOW and EDWIN ARNOLD, 

IN RESPECTFUL ADMIRATION 

OF 

THEIR RARE SYMPATHY WITH NATURE, 

AND THEIR TENDER INTERPRETATIONS OF 

" THE SPEECHLESS WORLD." 



EXCULPATORY NOTE. 

By way of partial explanation of the errata and 
repetitions which the Reader will find flourishing in 
the later and unrevised pages of this volume, I would 
venture to draw his generous attention to my present 
address. Leaving England for the front at very short 
notice, I had not the necessary time for finishing my 
proof-correcting ; and though this fact is no sort of 
justification for the original mistakes, it appears to me 
to be somewhere on the road to an excuse for their 
being left unmolested. 

PHIL ROBINSON. 



Headquarters Camp, 
Suakim Field Force, April 1885. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAP. 

I. THE KING OF THE BEASTS 

II. THE HEPTARCHY OF THE CATS 
III. BEARS AND WOLVES 
IV. SOME BEASTS OF REPROACH 
V. ASSES AND APES 
VI. SOME HARMLESS BEASTS 
VII. BRITISH WILD BEASTS 
VIII. BEASTS OF CHASE . 
IX. THE POETS' FLOCKS . 
X. " THE BEARD-BLOWN GOAT " 
XL THE POETS' HERDS . 
XII. SOME POETS' HORSES 

XIII. SOME POETS' DOGS . 

XIV. SOME POETS' CATS . 



PAGE 
I 

29 

56 

85 

119 
I40 

174 
205 

237 
255 
270 
295 
305 

337 



THE POETS' BEASTS, 
i. 

THE KING OF THE BEASTS. 

There are many who deprecate the lion's coronation as the 
King of Beasts. But, after all, it should not be forgotten 
by this noble animal's critics that it is only contended on its 
behalf that it is the King of Beasts; and, remembering this, 
it is very difficult, I think, to dispute its claim to monarchy. 
It may have vassals actually as strong as itself, powerful 
Warwicks or Burgundies, but it is still, I think, their liege 
lord. Its gait, eye, voice, and uplift of head all make it 
royal in presence — and as for its character, taking one 
thing with another, it is as good as that of any other 
beast. Its personal advantages, therefore, are all so much 
"to the good," as it were, while in its natural life, and in 
its traditional glories, the lion is indisputably majestic. 

There are two lions, the real and the imaginary. The 
former exists in nature only ; the latter in heraldry, myths, 
and poetry. But both are royal ; the former from attri- 
butes of person, the latter from attributes of mind. 

A writer, 1 for whom I have a great respect, calls the 
King of Beasts "a great carnivorous impostor," challenges 

1 Frances Power Cobbe. 

A 



2 Poets Beasts. 

its claim to majesty, and asks proof of its "supposed i 
nanimity and generosity beyond the blandness of its Harold 
Skimpole countenance, and the disdainful manner in which 
it throws back its mane as if it were quite incapable of the 
pettiness (of which it is, nevertheless, frequer. y) of 

picking up and eating a humble black-beetle."' But thk 
it is quite true that it is sometimes excelled in size and 
generally in ferocity by the tiger, in e'.egance of form by 
the leopard and jaguar, and in beauty of colouring by most 
of t 

ParV: . . ven if it were advisable, to 

to depose the lion from the throne it has. by the univei 
consent of mankind, so long occupied." It would be I 

magnificent presence and kingly voice of 
the lion would always suffice to rethrone it as often as it 
was deposed. And it wou"d be onadvisable, as no t 
beast could be crowned in its stead. The ermine would 
.come the unwieldy elephant v. anti- 

pathies t - nd mosquitoes, its secluded 

herbivorous habits ; and there is too much blood or. 

:"s claws for_a sceptre. The violent rhinoceros, with its 
vicious I .night force its way to temporary dictator- 

ship during a popular revolution, or the tusky wild boar 
by pertinacity of courage enforce a general : But 

er of them could be presented with sufficient dL 
to the people as the Anointed and E 
cessor worthy to fill its place, the lion must remain k 

Its glorious head and fall gent eye, the terrible 

composure of its bearing, the u e ease of its step, 

the awe-compelling voice — "the r e he 

ks his prey " — are all kingly. But in many of its h. 
it declines from this high standard. It is not really c^ 
geous. Thus, the anc. -...tues of Fear the 

heads of lions. It avoids i formidable antago- 

eads man and a'd his works. It hat. 



The King of the Beasts. 3 

wooded and, if possible, rocky places, where it can lie 
hidden and pounce upon passing prey. If it misses its 
aim it sulks, but does not pursue. 

Of course, the imaginary lion, the Hon of the poets, is 
a very different animal. It is a king of " sandy deserts," 
reigning in a majestic solitude. It courts danger by pro- 
voking men to combat, and never knows when it is beaten. 1 
It scorns a weak foe, and generously overlooks everything 
not its equal — for which perhaps the poets might quote that 
episode near Bethel when the lion killed the prophet, but 
refused to harm his ass. There is only one rebel against its 
authority, Spenser's "prowd, rebellious unicorn." 

But much of the poets' mistaken eulogy is condoned by 
their fidelity to tradition, and the result is that, while the 
lion is credited with noble qualities that he does not possess, 
he is also debited with many very culpable human weak- 
nesses. So, though the poets must be held largely respon- 
sible for the perpetuation of the ideas of the royalty, 
magnanimity, and general infallibility of the lion, there can 
be no doubt that, taken as a whole, their presentation of 
the " King of the Beasts " is a tolerably fair one. It is 
not, perhaps, quite so impartial as the American poets' 
exposition of their country's "Eagle" — but then that, as I 
have said elsewhere, is what might be called in vulgar 
ish "altogether phenomenal" — but it will stand, never- 
theless, like Landseer's bronzes, as being a thoroughly 
gratifying and sufficiently accurate statement of the lion's 
pretensions. For the poets assume the attitude of his- 
torians rather than of courtiers towards "the forest ki 
and — following the old fabulists faithfully — compound a 
sovereign that has both the virtues of royalty and the weak- 
nesses. Thus, though the lion is regal, it is at times tyran- 

1 Solomon himself says that it is "the strongest among beasts, 
and turneth not away from any.*' But Solomon probably did not 
know of the tijrer. 



4 Poets Beasts. 

nical, and, though usually magnanimous, it is also on 
occasion "inhuman." It is "the awful lion's royal sh- 
in one place : in another we meet only " the shaggy terror 
of the wood." While Cowper portrays the beast sparing 
a victim " on the terms of royal mercy, and through generous 
scorn to rend a victim trembling at his foot,'" Armstrong 
writes of "the ruthless king of beasts, that on blood and 
slaughter only live 

In spite too of its prodigious si it is well worth 

noting that no incident of man's triumph over the lion is 
neglected, and — as Pausanias tells us that Polydamas, the 
athlete, killed a lion, "although he was unarmed" — it is 
particularly recorded (whenever such was the case) that the 
man was without weapons during the encounter. In the 
same spirit the Assyrian king has left the proud chronicle 
on stone how " I. Assar-Banipul, king of multitudes, by my 
might, on my two legs, a fierce lion, which I seized behind 
the ears, in the service of Istar, goddess of war, with my 
two hands killed*' 1 In the same spirit of pride at such 
a conquest, the son of Jesse makes his boast before the 
king, and afterwards, being himself king, he places among 
his "mighty men," and before "the Thirty," that man of 
calm courage Benaiah, who " went down and slew a lion 
in the midst of a pit in time of snow," and who also 
: ;ble as himself, two " lion-like " men of Moab. 
Our own Richard — "he who robbed the lion of his heart " 
— after three sting, so the legend goes, in the 

dungeons of "Almay; especially glorified by the 

ballad-singers of his day, because he had torn a lion to 
pieces, and this, too, "without his weapons in his har 

.00, " irresistible Samson," who " tore the lion as the 
lion tears the kid" ("and he had nothing in his hand"). 

1 " Who drew the lion vanquished? 'twas an Avec 

plus de raison nous aurions le dessus si mes confreres savaient peindre," 
. lion in La Fontaine. 



The King of the Beasts. 5 

" Withouten wepen save his handes twey 
He slew and all to-rente the leon 
Toward his wedding walking by the way." 

And David (in Cowley) — 

" Saw a lion and leapt clown to it ; 
As eas'ly there the royal beast he tore, 
As that itself did kids or lambs before." 

And Hercules (in Darwin) — 

" Drives the lion to his dusky cave, 

Seized by the throat the growling fiend disarms, 
And tears his gaping jaws with sinewy arms." 

So in Glover's " Leonidas," "This unconquered hand 
hath from the lion rent his shaggy mane." So Drayton 
in the " Polyolbion " has a hero smashing two lions' heads 
together "against the hardened earth" till "their jaws and 
shoulders burst," reminding us of St. George's feats with a 
diversity of dragonish things ; and Montgomery peoples the 
world before the Flood with beings who pulled lions about 
as if they had been rabbits, and who were themselves ruled 
over by giant kings whose robes were "spoils of lions." 

" Throned on a rock the Giant-King appears 
In the full manhood of five hundred years ; 
His robe the spoil of lions, by his might 
Dragged from their dens and slain in fight" 

Cervantes speaks of Don Quixote's adventure with the 
lions as " the last and highest point at which the unheard- 
of courage of the Knight ever did, or could, arrive," and 
Don Quixote was himself so much of the same opinion, 
that he gave the world to know that thenceforward he 
called himself the Knight of the Lions. 

" Are the lions large ? " asked Don Quixote. " Very 
large," replied the man in the fore-part of the waggon ; 
"bigger never came from Africa." But the Knight insists 
upon them being led forth. They will not come. One of 



6 The Poets 1 Beasts. 

them, "of a monstrous size and frightful aspect," approaches 
the open door, stretches itself, gapes, yawns, "then thrusts 
out half a yard of tongue, with which it licks the dust off 
ce, : ' puts its head out of the cage, and after looking 
about it "awhile," turned its back upon the Don, without 
paying any attention whatever to his "vapourings and 
bravado," and "very contentedly lay down again in its 
apartment." So perhaps "the lion is not so fierce as 
painted," as Fuller — plagiarising from Herbert's "Jacula 
prudentum," itself a plagiarism — allows. 

ost cases the poets represent the lions calling, like 
the Earl of Chatham, or Mr. Winkle, for their antagonists 
to "come on;" but occasionally, as in straight-thru si 
Quarles — 

• " They faint, and show 
Their fearful heels ;: leerdocroi 

and I find in Sir Thomas Browne the following note : " In 
our time in the court of the Prince of Bavaria one of the 
lions leaped down into a neighbour's yard, where, nothing 
regarding the crowing or noise of the cocks, he did eat them 
up, with many hens." Our own iions of the Tower used, 
I find, to be regaled occasionally on "cocks and hens." 

Though usually so chivalrous as to refuse to take advan- 
tage of " equal foes." Byron tells us how — 

at dead of night he prowls 
. murder glutted, and in carnage rolls ; 
Insatiate still through teeming herds he roams, 
In seas of gore the I 

1 Phineas Fletcher has the following, identical in spirit : — 
when a greedy lion, long unfed, 
Breaks in at length into the harmlesse fol •! — 
So hungry rage commands — with fearful dread 
He J. og controi Is 

The victor proud ; he spoils, devours and tears, 
n the shepherd calls his peers." 



The King of the Beasts. 7 

As a rule " courteous " to their subjects, we read in 
Butler that 

" Lions are kings of beasts, and yet their power 
Is not to rule and govern but devour. 
Such savage kings all tyrants are." 

Again, though the sovereignty is one that " makes all 
nature glad," and the beasts unanimous in loyal submis- 
sion (the fox says " Thee all the animals with fear adore "), 
yet we find the lion's subjects abused for submitting to his 
supremacy. " No better than mere beasts that do obey," 
says Butler, and Pope — 

" If a king's a lion, at the least 
The people are a many-headed beast." 

So that, even from this scanty sample of quotations, it is 
evident that the poets had not arrived at any such unani- 
mous opinion as to the lion idea as they have about many 
other animals. As the King of Beasts it is merely the corre- 
late of the eagle. But as the fabulists' lion, done into verse, 
it remains the same mock-heroic animal that the folk-lore 
of the world has bequeathed to us. 

Above all, of course, the lion is royaj ; not so super- 
lative, perhaps, in sovereignty as the eagh, but still very 
emphatically the King of Beasts. " The sovereign lion " — 
"the forest king" — "the lion king" — "dread king" — "im- 
perious lion " (Cowper), and so forth, are to be collected for 
the gathering by bushels. Morris' " yellow lords of fear " 
is exceptionally fine. Nor, seeing how unanimously the 
past has conspired to crown the lion, is it easy to quarrel 
with the poets for perpetuating the monarchical idea. But 
it is essentially a poetical form of procedure to accept a 
fiction on the statement of professed fables and myths, and 
then to build upon it according to individual imagination. 
Thus, nothing is so popular with poets as the image of a 



8 1 he Poets Beasts. 

lion, like some chivalrous knight of the Crusades, challeng- 
ing attack from overwhelming numbers, and defying superior 
strength. 

No lion in the flesh behaves as Dryden's " kingly beast " 
that guides his pursuers to where he stands, " with roar of 
seas directs his ^chasers' way," that " provokes the hunters 
from afar, and dares them to the fray," and that " roars out 
with loud disdain, and slowly moves, unknowing to give 
place;" or, as Thomson's — 

" Despising flight, 
The roused-up lion, resolute and slow 
A '.vancing full on the protended spear," 

or as many other lions of poetry do, that scorn to turn from 
a foe. 

As a matter of fact, the lion, of all beasts of prey, is one 
of the readiest to avoid a scrimmage. King James used to 
try to divert his friends with lion-fights in the Tower, but, 
according to Howes' Chronicle, his Majesty always failed, 
owing to the captives' objections to fighting. " Then were 
divers other lions put into that place one after another, but 
they showed no more sport nor valour than the first : and 
ever)' one of them, so soon as they espied the trap-doors 
open, ran hastily into their dens. Lastly, there were put 
forth together the two young lusty lions which we/e bred in 
that yard, and were now grown great. These at first began 
to march proudly towards the bear, which the bear perceiv- 
ing came hastily out of a corner to meet them, but both lion 
and lioness skipped up and down and fearfully fled from 
the bear ; and so these, like the former lions, not willing to 
endure any fight, sought the next way into their den." But 
perhaps this forbearance is like that of the late Mr. T. 
rs, who, it is said, " never liked to hit a man who didn't 
know who he was." He was afraid of killing him in all 
his ignorance. So before he hit him he always told the 



The King of the Beasts. 9 

victim that he was Sayers. In the same way the poets' lion 
always " roars " before attacking. 

" Something almost like a lion " came " a great padding 
pace " after the Pilgrim. It had " a hollow voice of roar- 
ing." " 

This passage reminds me somehow of the poetical Beast 
of Beasts. It is almost like a lion, and has a hollow voice. 

Snug. Have you the lion's part written ? Pray you, if it be, give it 

me, for I am slow of study. 
Quince. You may do it extempore, for it is nothing but roaring. 

Now, to complete the poetical lion it is necessary that in 
all its moods it should be classic ; not only in those that 
are heroic but those that are pathetic also. For are not 
strong passions merely strong feelings ? So the lion in grief 
is the most grievous beast imaginable. No parents created 
(except eagles) feel the loss of their young so keenly as lions 
and lionesses ; none are so quickly apprehensive of danger 
to their hearths and cradles ; none are so frantic in revenge. 
Therefore, from Spenser, with his "felle" lion that "grudg- 
ing in his great disdaine, mournes inwardly, and makes to 
himselfe mone," to Burns, who, anxious to give expression 
to an overwhelming melancholy, cries out for the voice of 
a lioness " that mourns her darling cubs' undoing," we find 
the poets punctually magnifying the tenderness of the 
species. It was necessary, of course, that this should be 
done — just as one hears it said, describing some utter 
ruffian, that, "after all, his heart is in the right place." 
Thus, some of Ouida's tawny heroes are very leonine. 
They crunch up bronze candlesticks between their fingers 
in agonies of suppressed passion. But their violet eyes 
overflow with liquidity at the first appeal of pathos. 

The "stately lion," that "stalks with fiery glare" and 
"dauntless strides along," offers in its majestic gait an 
obvious simile that is abundantly and handsomely availed 



i o The Poets' Beasts. 

of. Omitting the interminable series of individuals that 
have been leonine in deportment, the surpassing dignity 
and sense of power that ennobles the lion's pace have been 
admirably transferred to, among other objects, an army (Mrs. 
Hemans) : 

" With a silent step went the cv.irassed ban 
Like a lion's tread on the burning sands " — 

lines which might be happily applied to the march of the 
brigade of Guards across the sands to Tel-el-Kcbir. Words- 
worth employs the simile for primeval man — 

•• His native dignity no forms debase, 
The eye sublime, and surly lion-grace : 
The slave of none, of beasts alone the lord." 

When tranquil in mind, there is a simplicity and ease in 
the lion's movements, though full of a tremendous conscious- 
ness of strength, that is eminently beautiful. When slightly 
out of temper this state, iness increases by the addition of a 
splendid sullenness — "with sullen majesty he stalks away r- 
(Broome) — but the simplicity is lost. When it flies into a 
passion both stateliness and simplicity are gone, for the lion 
reverts at once to a furious rough-and-tumble wild beast. 

But the poets measure its kingliness by its fur)-, and the 
more "woode" it becomes the more royal. This is an 
error, not only of fact, but of grace. When Jove gets angry 
he grows undignified. Gods and kings should always keep 
their tempers, for sceptres do not become furious hands, 
tals begin to question divinity when they see such 
ions coclestibus animis. 

Sometimes, but very seldom, he is merely "the shaggy- 
lion" (Prior), "the forest prowler '* (Byro: 
(Young), " terror of the wood " (Broome), that "grins dread- 
fully" — the lion of nature pure and simple, "lapping at 
the palm-edged pool '" (Jean Ingelow) ; the husband of the 



The King of the Blasts. 1 1 

" tawny " lioness that, robbed of whelps, " forgets to fear ; " 
the father of the brindled cubs "blood-nurtured in their 
grisly den." And it is worth noting that, just as the cock 
comes off, both in poetry and proverb, with such honours, 
while the hen is left behind to cackle and be generally 
ridiculous, so the lioness fails to receive from her spouse 
any adequate reflection of his dignities. She is desperately 
cruel, and, in defence of her young, exceptionally fierce. 
Because one, being robbed of her whelps, is said to have 
killed the Ambracian king, they all seem athirst for homi- 
cide. But the poets know little else of her. Pope calls 
her "stubborn," Spenser, King, and several others "fell," 
Montgomery, in the sense of mad with and 

all the rest speak of her as the incarnation of maternal 
fury. But the poets should not call the lioness or her 
cubs "brindled," nor speak of "lionets." or as heraldry 
calls little lions, " lioncels," 1 as "shrieking." For lion- 
kittens are spotted, and mew — " slumbering in milk and 
sighing " like any other cat"s kittens. 

But their home, "Gurden the lion's palace," the grisly 
den, all strewn with victim-remnants, cannot be too dread- 
fully rendered, and the poets' grimness - rises to the subject. 

' The air as in a lion's den 
Is c'ose and 1. 

•• T.rrific as the lair 
Where the young lions couch." 

" Giant rocks at distance p : led 
Cast their deep shadows o'er the wild. 
Darkly they rise. 
Away ! within those awful cells 
The savage lion of Afric d? 

1 " The Lyoncel from sweltrie countries braug' 
He looketh with an eie of flames of 

— C ' ; Tonrtian; 

2 Inter alios Wordsworth, Thomson, Hemans, Montgome: 



1 2 The Poets Beasts. 

" In weary length 
The enormous lion rests his strength. 
For blood in dreams of hunting burns ; 
Or, chased himself, to fight returns, 
Growls in his sleep, a dreary sound, 
Grinds his wedged teeth and spurns the ground." 

" There, bent on death, lie hid his tawny brood, 
And couched in dreadful ambush, pant for blood ; 
Or stretched on broken limbs, consume the day 
In darkness wrapt, and slumber o'er their prey." 

That lion-cubs eat tiger-cubs (Southey), but avoid bears 
and bulls till they are grown up (Cowley), are two details of 
poetical natural history which seem to rest on an insuf- 
ficient foundation of fact. The following also seems to be 
a sketch from Southey's imagination : — 

" A lion vainly struggled in the toils, 

Whilst by his side the cub, in furious rage, 
His young mane floating to the desert air, 
Rends the fallen huntsman." 

Of the beast in nature poetry is full, from the half-created 
lion of the morning of the sixth day "pawing to get free 
his hinder parts " (Melton) — 

"The roaring lion shakes his tawny inane, 
His struggling limbs still rooted in the plain " {Da>~<i<in) — 

to the final lion of the Apocalypse that shall have six wings, 
and eyes before and behind ; from the cub, whelped upon 
a litter of mumbled bones, to the old toothless brute blunder- 
ing into the Kafir's pitfall, and — 

" I5y the wily African betrayed, 
Heedless of fate, within its gaping jaws 
Expiring indignant." 

But, as a rule, the lion is not merely the natural beast, 
it is the "dread king," autocrat of the forest and desert, 



The King of the Beasts. i 3 

the " blood-nurtured monarch of the wood " (Southey), with 
terrific attributes of eye and voice and stride — 

" The lordly lion stalks 
Grimly majestic in his lonely walks. 
When round he glares, all living creatures fly ; 
He clears the desert with his rolling eye." 

Each special feature in turn engages the poets' deference, 
and each in turn is cited — like the birth-marks on the 
Christian Champions, on the Fatal Children, or Eastern 
Messiahs of all kinds and heroes generally — as an indisput- 
able proof of natural dominion and a birthright of sove- 
reignty. Thus of the lion's eye — ■ 

'• A lion o'er his wild domains 
Rules with the terror of his eye." — Montgomery. 

And the undoubted majesty of the lion's gaze when startled 
into apprehension or anger is a frequent metaphor — 

" Like a lion turns the warrior, 
Back he sends an angry glare." — Percy's Reliqucs. 

" As a leon he his loking caste." — Chancer. 

" A lion's noble rage sits in their face. 
Terribly comely ! arm'd with dreadful grace." — Cowley. 

Its voice, "the prowling lion's Here I am" (Words- 
worth); that "doubles the horrors of the midnight hours" 
(Broome); "how fearful to the desert wide!" — is one of 
the poets' finest resources whenever terror is needed in a 
stanza or panic-striking catastrophe requires a simile from 
Nature. 

" Xot with more dismay 
When o'er Caffraria's wooded hills 
Echoes the lion's roar, the timid herd 
Fly the death-boding sound " (Southey), 

than puny enemies before the battle-cry of heroes of the 
lion ramp, conspirators before the discovering lantern-flash, 



i 4 The Poets' Beasts. 

or evil-doers at the voice of God ; and. in short, everything 
in Nature that at one time or another may be suddenly 
. i into the propriety of precipitate self-preservation. 
As a rule it is heard roaring at night — " midnight listens 
to the lion's roar" (Byron); but sometimes in broad day- 
"the lion's sullen roar at noon resounds along the 
lonely banks of ancient Tigris" (Akenside). As a rule, 
too, the lion roars only when a'.one ; when, that is, it is call- 
ing to its mate or seeking one — " the solitary lion's roar " 
(Montgomery) ; but occasionally travellers have heard them 
roaring in company, and justifying therefore Montgon.. 
fine simile of — 

" Mad as a Lybian wilderness by night 
With all its lions up." 

that the poets have no room for error. But it is not a 
fact, as Prior supposes, 1 that lions go about roaring seeking 
for hunters to rend. 

reverent as the majority are, there are poets who 
(in spite of Eliza Cook's warning *) have been found auda- 
cious enough to " talk as familiarly of roaring lions as maids 
of thirteen do of puppy-dogs," and even to make fun of the 
tremendous voice. 

: So have I heard on Afric's burning shore 
A hungry lion give a grievous roar ; 
The grievous roar echoed along the shore. 

1 " So the fell lion in the lonely glade, 

nnrting with the hunter's spear, 
Tho' deeply wounded, no way yet dismay'd, 

terrible, and meditat . 
In sulien fury traverses the plain 
To find the oe, and battle him again." 

— OJe to the (j, 

Let the lion be stirred- by too daring a word, 
And beware of his echoing grc 



The King of the Beasts. 1 5 

Artax, : So have I heard on Afiic's burning shore 
Another lion give a grievous roar, 
And the first lion thought the last a bore. 

Or, as in Swift's delightful " Hyperbole on a Lion : " 

" He roar'd so loud and looked so wondrous grim, 
II is very shadow durst not follow him." 

The prodigious fervour of the lion's attack — or rather the 
exaggerated ideas once entertained of the general fierceness 
of the animal — has stereotyped Chaucer's comparison "as 
feres as a lion" — "as lions fierce. 1 ' 

" Xe in Belmarie there n'is so fell Icon 
That hunted is, or for his hunger wood. 
Ne of his prey desireth so the blood 
As Palamon." 



And again- 



" This Palamon 
In his fighting: were as a wood leon. 



So Thomson and Parnell — 

" On just reason, once his fury roufed, 
No lion springs more eager to his prey. 
Blood is a pastime." 

" So proud, inhuman, numberless and strong, 
Like desert lions on their prey they go." 

Hence numerous metaphors taken from the same aspect of 
the animal have become almost proverbs with poets of the 
Eliza Cook calibre — " She'll take a blow and face a foe, 
like a lion turned to bay " — " Go face the hungry lion in his 
path," &c. But the ferocity idea is certainly elongated to 
absurdity when we read that — 

" The lion may yield, let him sink, let him bleed, 
But seek not to tame him, to bind and to lead ; " 

for as a matter of fact the lion has been very frequently 



i6 

tamed. Among the ancier - considered a regular 

appendage of the hunting being trained for the 

chase, in a notably, just as the lynx and cheetah are 

trained still in the East. Nor were the Assyrians singular 
in keeping this beast as a pet, for several heroes and k 
both to east and west of Nineveh are reported to have kept 
tame lions : while in art the docile species is by no means 
uent — 

r.g ran many a tame leon and leopart." 

And so we find, among ot": - John, an 

Jerome, Sir Gwain de Galles, De Latour, Saladin, Hilde- 
brand, Una, and the Fairie Queene. all maintaining lions as 
pets or servants, while in the various c ybele — 

. or maned lions hale 
jggish wheels r solemn their toothed maws, 
Their surly eyes brow-h:dden, heary paws 
Uplifted drowsily, and neiry tails 

Cowering brushes — 

and Bacchus, and Love, Indras, Prakrit, and Bala share 
with other c: ::d personages the dignity of a lion- 

steed. 

u, in popular works of fiction, from the "Arabian 
to the •• Pilgrim's Progress," the lion appears as a 
janitor or guardian, faithfully ferocious to the suspicious- 
looking stranger and the evil-doer, but as tame to its own 
household and friends s companion or Androcles' 

acquaintance. 

N r in . is ferocious" connection is it impertinent to 
note how carefully the poets credited the fiction of the lion 
finding it necessary to exasperate itself up to the neces 
point by lashing its own body with its tail, 1 just as 

1 This fiction, it is just possible, arose from the curious claw-like 
prickle or " thorn " found sometimes at the tip of the animal's tail, and 
_re still puzzled to provide an explanation. 



The King of the Beasts. i 7 

Picrochole had to goad himself into courage against Grand- 
gousier by self-reproaches. " Roused by the lash of his 
own stubborn tail," says Dryden, happily hitting off the 
British characteristic of abusing ourselves into action ; while 
Waller is more precise — 

'• A lion so with self-provoking smart 
(His rebel tail scourging his noble part) 
Calls up his courage ; then begins to roar 
And charge his foes." 

That the lion wags its tail when angry has passed into 
a proverb, and those who have hunted the splendid animal, 
either in Asia or Africa, always record the preliminary 
" lashing of the tail " of a lion that has made up its mind 
to charge. So Darwin's " indignant lions rear their bristling 
mail, and lash their sides with undulating tail." Cowley's 
" bold lion, that, ere he seeks his prey, lashes his sides 
and roars and then away," and others are not only within 
" the literal verity," but the extension of so common a 
feline gesture into a leonine singularity — above all, for so 
absurd a purpose as stinging itself into courage — is a 
prolongation of the idea that is decidedly poetical, but 
certainly little else. 

Indeed, the poets seem to recognise the dilemma in 
which undue insistence on the unmitigated ferocity of the 

lion would place them — 

" Fie 
Upon a lord that wol have no mercie, 
But be a leon both in word and deed ! " 

ejaculates Chaucer, after having exhausted the lion-idea 
to magnify the heroic fury of Palamon. For if the lion is 
not magnanimous it is evidently unworthy of the royal title. 
So the poets " hedge," so to speak, on all their ferocity by 
explaining that under certain particular circumstances the 
lion is quite lamb-like, and with very special classes of 
persons, "roars you as gently as any sucking dove." 

B 



iS Ike Poets Beasts. 

You are never, of course, to be in any doubt as to the 
capacity of the lion for being terrible on occasion — "Mind 
you, Todgers's can do it when it likes." But, on the other 
hand, Hercules can calm down to the distaff, and Mars 
play with pet sparrows. Did not Cceur-de-Lion himself 
withdraw his hand on one or two occasions from commit- 
ting unnecessary murders? So just as the partial historian 
tempers the crimson story of the first Richard with dabs 
and specks of white clemency, so the poet, afraid of finding 
his monarch-beast a complete Nero, qualifies its blood- 
thirstiness with legendary and mythical suggestions of an 
occasional magnanimity. Thus Moore diverges from his 
usual importraiture to call it, in one of his Fables, "gene- 
rous lion," and Dryden (using generous in the best sense, 
as Prior has "the hungry lion's gen'rous rage") goes on to 
say — 

" So when the gen'rous lion has in sight 
His equal match, he rouses for the fight. 
But when his foe lies prostrate on the plain 
He sheaths his paws, uncurls his angry mane, 
And, pleas' d with the bloodless honour? of the day, 
Walks over, and disdains th' inglorious prey \ " 

which is industriously untrue to fact — while sheathing his 
pa:i's is an extraordinary performance even for a poet's lion. 
The bear really does act in the whimsically magnanimous 
way described in the above lines. But not the lion. 

"The royal disposition of that beast to prey on nothing 
that doth seem as dead " is a fiction. 

" And I no less her anger dread 
Than the poor wretch that feigns him dead 
While some fierce lion doth embrace 
His lifeless corpse and licks his face. 
Wrapt up in silent fear he lies, 
Torn all to pieces if he cries." 

This reads well enough in Wallers song, but it is deplorably 



The King of the Beasts. 19 

beyond doubt that the lion will even prey on things that are 
obviously and outrageously defunct. Its opportunity really 
comes when "the foe lies prostrate on the plain." Above 
all, it prefers to surprise its "equal match" when he is 
asleep by the camp fire. The same agreeable fiction is 
very frequently repeated. In one of the oldest of our 
ballads we find — 

" As the lyonne which is of bestes kynge, 
Unto thy subjects be kurteis and benyngne ; " 

whereas in nature the lion will even condescend to pick up 
off its royal path such inconsiderable "subjects "as mice, 
lizards, frogs, and even cockroaches. The larger ones keep 
out of sight, knowing his majesty's omnivorous propensities, 
and disregard Wyatt's assurance that "the lion in his raging 
hour forbears that sueth," or Broome's, that "the fierce 
lion will hurt no yielden things." Dr. Livingstone once 
saw a very fine lion in Africa that had just captured a fawn 
only a few hours old. Yet Quarles tells the fawns that 
" hungry lions, woo'd with tears, will spare," and Spenser 
the lady — 

" The lyon lord of everie beast in field 
His princely puissance will abate, 
And mightie proud to humble weak does yield, 
Forgetful of the hunger which of late 
Him prickt, in pittie of such sad estate." 

Thus, in St. George's adventures, two lions, after killing the 
eunuch, lay their heads in Sabra's lap. But the Knight 
comes up and slays them, for which I can never sufficiently 
forgive him. He goes on, however, to say : " Now, Sabra, I 
have by this proved thy fidelity : for it is the nature of the 
lion, be he never so furious, not to harm but humbly lay 
his bristled head upon a maiden's lap. Therefore, divine 
paragon, thou art the world's chief wonder for love and 
chastity." Later on, in the adventures, I think, of St. David, 



20 TJlC Poets BtJ. 

where the King of Babylon's daughter is in great trouble, 
her : shing to kill her. Fidelia hangs about the king's 

neck "like a lioness,'" and says : "Thou monstrous murderer, 
more cruel than the mad dogs of I ; hy dost thou 

determine to slaughter the most chaste and loyal lady in 
the world., even she within whose lap untamed lions will 
come and sleep ? '' 

But women were the special objects of leonine forbear- 
ance, particularly if they were cha^ 

lis said that a lion will turn and flee 
From a maid in the pride of her purity ; 

and again — 

" Harpers have sung and poets told 
That he, in fury uncontrolled, 
The shaggy monarch of the wood, 
Before a virgin, fair and good, 
Hath pacified his savage mood ; r ' 

so that if Byron, Scott, and the rest be correct, "a lion 
among ladies " need not after all be so " dreadful " a thing as 
Snug supposed. Nor if they are of royal blood will the royal 
beast do them hurt, as in Beaumont and Fletcher's play — 

" Fetch the Numidian lion I brought over. 
e be sprung from royal blood, the lion 
Will do her reverence ; else, he'll tear her.'' 

Una, be remembered, was at first attacked by the 

beast, but, recognising her virtue, it fawned upon her, kissed 
her feet, licked her hands, and followed her to the death. 

As a matter of (poetical) fact, lions will not hurt princes 
under any consideration. Nor are many individual instances 
of leonine generc - To say nothing of the fre- 

quent allusions to Androcles his lion, Shakespeare. Wal - 
Blake. Fairfax, Cowper, and others cite examples of the lion's 
unexpected clemency to such as were in misfortune, or those 
who had befriended it. 



The King of the Beasts. 2 1 

Thoroughly consonant with this theory of the occasional 
gentleness of " the terror of the wood," is the poet's cheer- 
fulness in endorsing its amiable familiarity with the lamb. 
Everybody, probably, remembers the astonishment of the 
Seven Champions of Christendom, even though they were 
accustomed to "untamed lions" laying their heads in the 
laps of Angelicas, when they saw lions and lambs together. 
But the poets are not to be surprised by such trifles. The 
Orpheus and Amphion myths redound to the credit of the 
muse, 1 and it is not therefore altogether unnatural that lions 
"by tuneful magic tamed," "by verses charmed," and "led 
by the ear," should now and then be found "dandling the 
kid," or "gambolling with the bounding roe." They write, 
however, on a point of a high prescription. We read in 
Howe's " Chronicles " how King James had a lamb lowered 
into the Tower lions' den, the company expecting to behold 
a thrilling murder. On the contrary, " Being come to the 
ground, the lamb lay upon his knees, and both the lions stood 
in their former places and only beheld the lamb. Presently 
the lamb rose up and went unto the lions, who very gently 
looked upon and smelled on him, without any hurt. Then 
the lamb was softly drawn up again, in as good plight as 
he was let down." In the earliest past, as we know from 
Holy Writ, "the lion gambolled with the kid" in Spenser's 
Paradise — 

" The lyon there did with the lambe consort, 
And eke the dove sate by the faulcon's side ; 
Ne each of other feared fraud or tort, 
But did in safe securitie abide, 
Wkhouten perill of the stronger pride." 

We can also surmise, from sacred promises of a future of 
universal peace and idyllic amiability,, what Shelley, dream- 
ing of the hereafter, foresees — 

1 Poets claim both as of their craft : also Arion. 



22 The Pods' Beasts. 

" The lion now forgets to thirst for blood : 
There might you see him sporting in the sun 
Beside the dreadless kid ; his claws are she I 
His teeth are harmless ; custom's force has i 
Ills nature as the nature of a lamb ; " 

and that then, blessed as in Montgomery's " Pelican Island," 1 
where " nor lion nor tiger shed innocent blood," 

•• The steer and lion at one crib shall meet, 
And harmless serpents lie 

The weary Progress will then be over : the chained lions 
and the loose ones will have no further terrors for Fait 
and the beasts that came along after the pilgri:. 
padding pace " will have been forgotten by Christian. 

In heraldry it is a more conspicuous beast than even the 
ordinary familiarity with the armorial lion would lead the 
uninitiated to suppose, for (as Planche tells us -) it was 
once upon a time the only beast thought worthy to be w 
on shields and helmets. Thus, kings of I \ Scotland, 

Norway, and Denmark, Princes of Wales and Dukes of 
Normandy, Counts of Flanders, Earls of Arundel, Lir^ 
Leicester, Shrewsbury, Pembroke, Salisbury, and Here: 
all bore lions — indeed, up to the twelfth century, heraldic 
zoology begins and ends with the King of Bear : t on, 

the leopard came upon the heraldic field, not only to dh 
honours with the lion, but to usurp its place. For leopard 
and lion — notably in the arms of England — are the one and 
same animal, the difference of attitude alone deciding the 
nominal species. In other words, "leopard" is used in 
heraldry, not to represent a specific beast, but only a parti- 
cular attitude of the lion. Thus lion-leopard means a lion 
passing and seen in profile, while a leoparded-lion means 
a lion full-faced. For the lion, pure and simple, heraldry 

1 " Lion nor tiger here shed innocent blood." — I 

2 Planche, " The Pursuivant of Arms : " Chaito & Windus. 



The Kino- of the Beasts. 23 

insists that it shall be "rampant." That attitude belongs 
to it, as a matter of course. According to further details 
of position, couching, standing, stalking, &c, the lion 
symbolises sovereignty, circumspection, sagacity, magna- 
nimity, valour, counsel. But heraldry has played strange 
pranks with the animal, for it has degenerated into many 
unworthy varieties, double-headed and double-tailed, fork- 
tonged and winged, blue and red, silver and gold, black 
and white — and even spotted. 

As our national emblem the lion cannot fail of course 
to meet with abundant and flattering recognition. But 
there has been, on the whole, a generous forbearance from 
the topic that deserves our gratitude. Nevertheless, when- 
ever treaties are signed, "the British lion kisses the feet 
of peace," and whenever they are broken " our lion roars." 
In subsequent battle "the lion-glance appals the foe," and 
after the victory it " learns to spare the fallen foe." But 
many other countries claim the lion for their cognisance, 
or have at one time or other earned the leonine epithet, 
for, besides "the Anglian lion, the terror of France," : there 
is "the ruddy lion that ramped in gold" in "proud Scot- 
land's royal shield ;" "the winged lion of St. Mark," 2 where 
" Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles," but 
now 

" St. Mark sees his lion where he s'ood, 

Stand, but in mockery of his wither'd power." 

There is " Belgia," with her lions " roaring by her side," — 
"the Belgic lion in full fury roars" (Phillips), and "the 
Assyrian lyonesse," and " the lion of Neustria," and (what- 
ever that was) the Tartar lion, and " victorious Salem's 

1 That " oft prowling, ensanguined the Tweed's silver flood, but, 
taught by the bright Caledonian lance, learned to fear in his own native 
wood." — Burns. 

2 " Sullen old lion of grand St. Mark 

Lordeth and lifteth his front from the dark.'' — Joachim Miller. 



24 The Poets Beasts. 

lion-banner," " Judah's lion," and others of more or less 
celebrity. 

Yet, with all their homage, the poets can hardly exceed 
the measure of this animal's dignity in prose. Even to 
dream of lions was a splendid prognostication. It is the 
ensign of Hercules, Hector, and Achilles ; the Egyptian 
hieroglyph of divine strength ; the " vehicle " of many gods 
both of the East and West, and of the heroic all the world 
over, from Scandinavian Rollo to Ethiopian Camlace. The 
Persian Xerxes also is a lion, though it was those beasts 
that, by attacking his camel-train, put his campaign in peril. 
The gods of Greece borrowed its form, and the chiefest of 
Olympus and of the earth accepted its spoils as the insignia 
of imperial strength. To describe or paint Jove himself, 
men have had to take the lion as their model, and in the 
imaginative Orient the figure is repeated in the forces of 
Nature and the pageantry of the Pantheon. Its effigies sup- 
ported the throne of Solomon and dignified the decorations 
of the Temple. It stands, the mere name alone — " Sinha," 
lion — as the honourable affix of every member of one of the 
noblest nations of Hindostan, whose king all the world 
knew as Runjeet Singh, " the lion of the Punjab." But 
I a roll of heroes that title summons up to the fancy — 
"the lion of Persia," 1 Ali, "the lion of God," "the lions of 
Judah," " the lion-kings'of Assyria," "the lion of the north," 
"the lion of the Prophet," "the lion of Bavaria" — and so 
forth in endless list, till we have enough Cceur-de-Lions 
and Leos to re-establish a Lemberg or a Eeontopolis, and 
to justify the redemption of " that sweet land of Lyonnesse " 
now lying forty fathom under Cornish water. To take its 
name was the crowning affectation of the chivalrous, just as 
to have killed a lion was so often — from Hercules to Don 
Quixote — considered the climax of their courage. 

1 That splendid prince who met his death, unhappily, while chasing 
an ass. 



The King of the Beasts. 25 

•' A man huge of limb, 
Grey-eyed, with crisp-curled hair 'twixt black and brown, 
Who had a lion's skin cast over him, 
So wrought with gold that the fell showed but dim 
Betwixt the shreds, and in his hand he bore 
A mighty club." 

It adds a dignity to the light offence of the fleet maiden 
and her lover that for their disregard of her groves they 
joined Cybele's chariot-team ; and even the firmament 
borrows a splendour from its terrific lion-constellation. 
Homer himself is the grander for his lions, and what 
notable blanks there would have been on the gates and 
walls of fortress and palace and city had there been no lion 
for the sculptor, and what beauties been missing on canvas 
and in literature. 

Egypt was so indiscriminate in her zoological reverences 
that it adds little to the dignity of the lion, that the 
Pharaoh who bowed before beetles should have paid it 
sacred honours, though there is something originally fine in 
the fact that the priests of the " Lion-town " chanted during 
its meal-times to the beasts as they crunched their bones. 
Our church-gargoyles are said to be a relic of this worship 
by the Nile, a vestige of the old-world homage paid to Leo, 
in the ascendant at the rising of the Great River ; and 
whether this be true or not — and we owe a great deal more 
to the pagans than unfortunately, "Pagan being dead this 
many a day," we can ever repay them — the Florentines 
supply a half-way link in the coronation of the lions on St. 
John's Day, the Solleone, when the sun enters that sign. 

Individuals dignified with lion compliments are "too 
numerous for specification." But they include British 
sailors ("the lion-spirits that tread the deck") and British 
soldiers (" the lion-heart of British fortitude ") ; most British 
kings, from Richard I., "monarch of the lion-heart," to 
George III., and a very large number of heroes from St. 



26 The Poets' Bea 

Geor_e t: Nelson, as also most European ce'.ebrities — 
Henri IV, Napoleon, Tell, Charles NIL. Luther, and 
others; " classical : ' nc .rying in degrees of tat 

from Ulysses to Tarquin, and all the heroes of poe. 
the Douglases. Alberts, and Tracy de Veres, besides a pro- 
digious series of miscellaneous personages of vc ned 
character. ! g from Cain to Jonathan, and from the 
Messiah to Satan. 

The singular el:.- .on idea is thus abunda: 

But when we remember that in Ho'.y Writ the 
animal stands as the symbol of such very different thin_- 

and falsehood, courage and craft, the enemies of 
truth and of wickedness : that in one part of Ho'.y Writ it 
typifies the devil, in another is a type of the Saviour : also, 
that in all fables the lion is presented to us in even* possible 
variety of character, from supreme grandeur to ridiculous 
meanness, we perceive that the poets have been faithful to 
their sources of information. 

But it is in the metaphors and morals which the King of 
Beasts affords that his many-sided nature is perhaps best 
illustrated. Independence is (in Smollett) "Lord of 
lion-heart;" Ambition is (in Co--- e lion-s.. 

Truth, u lion-bold ; " Danger (in Akenside) has a -'lion- 

— 

•• And him beside rides fierce c 

D a lion, loth for to be led." 

Passion and War (in Churchill), " fierce as the lion roaring 
for his prey, or lioness of royal whelps foredone," are on 
one side, whiie Peace, Cruelty, and Self-interest (in Young) 
may be cited on the other. Tennyson has a nob'.e simile — 

- _>wly comes a hungry people as a iion creeping nigher, 
Glares at one who nods and winks behind a slowly eying : 

The sea is often a lion, and sometimes with ad::. 



TJic King of the Beasts. 27 

force. Thus, in Hood, " Three monstrous seas came roar- 
ing on like lions leagued together ; " or, in Hemans, " Like 
angry lions wasting all their might." So Montgomery. 
" the ocean roaring in his wrath, mad as a Lybian wilder- 
ness by night, with all its lions up, in chase or fight." In 
Jean Ingelow, Time, "A grim old lion gnawing lay, and 
mumbled with his teeth a regal tomb." Into innumerable 
other facets is the lion-stone cut. It does homage (in 
Grahame) to the announcing angels of Bethlehem — 

" The prowling lion stops, 
Awe-struck, with mane upreared, and flattened head, 
And, without turning', backward on his steps 
Recoils, aghast, into the desert gloom ; " 

it spares the prophet, thus characteristically " Emblem "-ed 
by Quarles, — 

" Fierce Lyons roaring for their prey ! and then 
Daniel throwne in ! and Daniel yet remaine 
Alive ! There was a Lion in the Den 
Was Daniel's friend, or Daniel had been slaine. 

Among ten thousand Lions, I'd not feare 
Had I but only Daniel's Lion there ; " 

it is soothed, in Darwin for instance, by music — 

" So playful Love on Ida's flowery sides 
With ribbon rein the indignant lion guides ; 
Pleased on his brindled back the lyre he rings 
And shakes delirious rapture from the strings. 
Slow as the pausing monarch stalks along 
Sheaths his retractile claws and drinks the song; " 

and is a pattern of connubial constancy — 

" The lion's constant to his only miss 
And never leaves his faithful lioness, 
And she's as chaste and true to him again." — Dut'er. 

This may be true of the lion — for Nature has enforced 
monogamy upon nearly all dangerous or noxious (male) 



28 



The Poets' Beasts. 



beasts — but it is far from the truth with regard to the 
lioness. She is a very Messalina, at once faithless and 
cruel. 

" In consequence of the great mortality of female cubs 
during the process of dentition, she possesses over European 
ladies the advantage of not being 'redundant,' as Mr. Greg 
calls it — nay, of being, on the contrary, at a high premium. 
Every third lion prowls about the desert sands, roaring 
vainly for a mate ; and the consequence is, of course, an 
immense exaltation of value, and perhaps, also, some addi- 
tional cruelty on the side of the lioness." Miss Cobbe 
then goes on to give a terrible illustration of this cruelty — 
but the facts are, perhaps, too familiar to need repetition. 
Suffice it to say that the lioness manages by her coquetry to 
bring rival suitors into each other's presence, and, having 
excited them to combat, leaves them to bleed to death for 
her sake while she strolls away in search of fresh conquests. 

"The lion," says Professor Kitchen Parker, "enjoys the 
honourable distinction of being strictly faithful to his 
spouse, although report says she is by no means so virtuous, 
but only cleaves to her mate until a stronger and handsomer 
one turns up." 




II. 



THE HEPTARCHY OF THE CATS. 



Nothing can be more unsatisfying than the poets' treat- 
ment of the splendid family of the Cats. Excepting the 
lion, to which, as I have shown, they do conspicuous justice, 
the poets have apparently no appreciation whatever of the 
grand Parable of the Carnivora. They say the tiger is very 
fierce, and the leopard and the panther very beautiful ; but 
there they end. Their powerful compeers, the jaguar, puma, 
ounce, and cheetah, which complete the Heptarchy — the 
Lion-state enjoying the " hegemony " of the confederacy — 
are not utilised, so that virtually the noble Beasts of Prey 
afford the poets no more than two similes — one of exces- 
sive cruelty, and one of personal elegance. Here and there, 
of course, tradition, heraldic association, or Biblical mis- 
translation, betrays the poet into some oblique injustice to 
the proud vassals of the beast paramount — " the lonely lords 
of empty wilds and woods" — but these aberrations do not 
materially affect their treatment. They do not recognise 
apparently the nobility of this family of courageous and 
beautiful beasts in Nature's wild-life scheme, nor appreciate 
the purpose they serve as her chief ministers of state. 

Individually the tiger, leopard, and panther are each of 
them largely utilised, but, as will be seen, with very meagre 



3° 

aims and results, cons the possibilities of such 

subje 

"With regard, however, to th . ul and 

dangerous be:. to the poets to point out that 

antiquity used " pard " for the cheetah ; that tradition made 
leopard" a hybrid between pards and lions; that the 
thical panthera," of European fancy, was first imagined 
somewhere about the I and has sur- 

vived as the panther of modern times : that when heraldry 
commenced : leopard was merely the lion in 

certain al mixed up tigers with 

leopards and par: : the emblematic retinue 

of the Greek gods : that modern zoologists are still divided 
as to the identity or leopard and panther ; 

America calls the puma both "panther" and " mc 
tain lion : " that in Ceylon the panther is called the " tige 

can Colonies the leopard is called 
ail over India the same native names 
are hopelessly bewildered among not only : eopards, 

and cheetahs, but also extended to hyaenas. 

TIGER. 

The Tiger — • the deep-mou id of the brown 

man," as Morris calls it — i~ equent image with the 

poets, whether "holding its solitude in desert dark and 
rude,"" — "crouchir, ts helpless prey," — "darting 

fierce, impetuous, on the prey his glance^ has doomed. — 
or " returning to its den before the sun may see it" But 
it has nevertheless only one aspec . of ruthless 

voracity. T : is made to contribute. 

The impetuosity, is used as if 

denoting a r. of purpose greater than when the 

royal lion does the same thing : and when it lies in 
ambush — a particularly leonine trick m is con- 



The Heptarchy of the Cats. 3 1 

demned as savouring of treachery, though lions may do it 
by right divine. 

The tiger — "cruel and unkind, that with greediness thirsts 
after blood," — " formed to cruel meals," stands, in fact, in 
the poets for the symbol of pure bloodthirstiness — " with fell 
clawes full of fierce gourmandise, and greedy mouth wide- 
gaping like hell-gate " — 

"As when some tiger, to his haunt from day 
Returns, bloodfoaming, with his slaughtered prey, 
Grim-pleased that there with undisturbed roar 
He'll glut and revel o'er the reeking gore ; 
Glares in wild fury o'er the gloomy waste, 
And growls terrific o'er the mangled beast ; 
Now drags relentless down the rugged va'.e, 
And stains the forest with a bloody trail" 

This episode from Wilson is characteristic of a hundred 
other passages equally untrue to nature, for the tiger is not 
by many fathoms such a fool as to drag his prey to his 
haunt, "and stain the forest with a bloody trail" which 
would inevitably lead to his destruction. Nor does he roar 
at his meals. Another popular poets' error is preserved in 
Montgomery, where, in an otherwise excellent passage, he 
speaks of the tiger dragging the buffalo to his lair and 
" crashing through the ribs at once unto the heart," for this 
animal never commences its meal either at the heart, or, as 
other poets say, at the throat, but at the buttocks of the prey. 
"The tigress in her whelpless ire," " the cubless tigress 
in her jungle raving" (Byron), " the tiger-dam with red 
fangs" (Cook) — is*a very favourite simile for supreme fero- 
city, carried in Marvell even to the point of suicide — 

"So from Euphrates' bank, a tigress fell 
After her robbers for her whelps doth yell, 
But sees enraged the river flow between. 
Frustrate revenge, and love by loss more keen, 
At her own breast her useless claws does aim — 
She tears herself." 



- 2 The Poets Beasts. 

Arcite in the " Knights Tale 

" There w;s no tigre in the Vale of Gala: 
When that hire whelpe is stole 
So cruel." 

But, after all, where shall we give the palm of maternal 
fondne- ? As Byron sa; 

• The love of offspring's nature's general law, 
From tigresses and cubs to ducks and ducklings ; 
There's nothing whets the beak, or arms the claw, 

x an invasion of their babes and sucklings, 
And all who have seen a human nursery, saw 
How mothers love their children's squalls and chuckling' 

Connubial affection is not the tigress's forte, for, with all 
wild animals of her sex, she shares the deplorable tendency 
to transfer her charms from her spouse to any other male that 
overcomes him in battle, and is indeed much maligned if it 
be not true that she actually incites her lord and master to 
fight, as if not altogether indifferent to a change of hus- 
bands. The lines u Oh, e'en the tiger slain hath one who 
ne'er doth flee, who soothes his dying pain," are not there- 
fore in invariable or even frequent harmony with the facts 
of the tigers wedded life. For the tigress licks the wounds 
of the conqueror, irrespective of previous domestic rela- 
tions. 

Nor, as a matter of fact, is the tiger a specially ferocious 
criminal. As the greatest authority ^>n Indian natural 
history says, it is "a harmless, timid animal." It feeds on 
animals that are prodigiously injurious to crops, and there 
are on record in India the complaints of villagers about the 
increase of deer and wild pigs in consequence of the de- 
ction of the tigers in their neighbourhood. When it 
gets too feeble to catch wild animals it begins to eat tame 
ones, or easier victims still, the men or women who are in 



The Heptarchy of the Cats. 33 

charge of the cattle. It then becomes, as a "man-eater." a 
criminal against humanity — and death cannot overtake it 
too soon. 

But it is only those who know the Hindoos thoroughly 
who can credit their amazing apathy, even when in immi- 
nent danger. So long as it is not actually visible they 
refuse to take precaution against peril, and I remember 
during the Afghan War having to thrash some lazy camp- 
followers in order to arouse them to a proper sense of the 
necessity of saving their own lives. They had squatted down 
to smoke by the roadside in the Khyber Pass, though they 
knew the enemy was lurking both in the rocks above them, 
and in the grass-jungle behind them, and though they had 
with their own eyes seen the corpses of camp-followers lying 
where they had been murdered — when, like themselves, they 
had sate down contrary to orders to smoke. In the very 
same way, the herdsman comes loafing home in the twilight, 
shouting out a song at the top of his voice as he goes (to 
let the beast know that he is coming probably), and sud- 
denly the tiger flashes out of the sugar-canes, and there is 
an end of that herdsman. But the next man will probably 
do the very same thing. He will take another road of 
course on his way home, but he will lag behind his catde 
and sing to himself in the same ridiculous way, and out from 
under the bair-tree springs the same old tiger. 

Indeed, it is one of the problems of Indian administra- 
tion how to keep the natives from suicide. They prefer to 
have half the village down with small-pox and then to carry 
a dead chicken round the stricken hamlet on the end of a 
pole, than to be vaccinated. They prefer to lose a pro- 
digious number of their acquaintances by drowning rather 
than protect their open wells. They prefer to have tens of 
thousands of men and women bitten by snakes in the toes 
and thumbs, and die therefrom, than to let enough light into 
a hut to see the difference between a faggot and cobra. 

c 



34 The Poets Beasts. 

Not that I wish to extenuate the immorality of the tiger 
in eating human beings, even when it finds them lying 
about, so to speak, as if they were worth nothing. It is a 
practice that should be discouraged even more forcibly than 
it is, and be made an imperial matter. But, on the other 
hand, it is unfair, even to tigers, to speak of them as if they 
were for ever going about mangling. They are ferocious 
enough — indeed, they set the lion a very splendid example 
— when they are attacked and have to fight. But such 
ferocity is not to be spoken ill of. It is heroism. The 
historian can give our handful of soldiers in the Indian 
Mutiny no further praise when he has once said that " they 
fought like tigers." The poet, therefore, who calls Bertram 
a tiger, because he has not enough courage to show fight 
against odds, does the noble beast a gratuitous injustice. 
Scott, moreover, stretches his metaphor beyond its capacity 
when he makes Bertram, couching in the brake and fern, 
hide his face " lest foemen spy the sparkle of his swarthy 
eye ! ■ 

Nor, in the poets, does any majesty appertain to the 
tiger, " that doth live by slaughter. - ' It is " tameless " — 
which of course tigers are not, seeing that they have very 
frequently been tamed — and affords frequent similes for 
irresistible ferocity. But there is no dignity attaching to 
the beast apart from his pre-eminence in criminal fury. It 
is. in fact, described as rather a mean animal, toying, as in 
Hurdis, with the kids when caught, " whetting his appetite 
by long restraint," and, in Spenser — 

" When he by chance doth find 
A feeble beast, doth felly him oppress." 

It worries sheepfolds, stalks "gentle fawns at play "' — 

" As a tiger, who by chance hath spy'd 
In some purlieu two gentle fawns at play, 
h-traight cinches close, then rising changes oft 



7 he Heptarchy of the Cats. 35 

His couchant watch, as one who chose his ground 
Whence rushing he might surest seize them both 
Gripped in each paw " {Dryden\ 

kills for killing's sake, " roams all abroad and grimly slays," 
and continues to slaughter even when dying itself. 

"Asa grim tiger whom the torrent's might 
Surprises in some parched ravine at night 
Turns, even in drowning, on the wretched flocks 
Swept with him in that snow-flood from the rocks, 
And to the last, devouring on his way. 
Bloodies the stream he has no power to stay." 

Moore's zoology, however, is, as a rule, of the wildest 
kind ; but it is strange that the notorious fact — notorious 
at any rate from the days of the Ramayana and before 
Homer — that in presence of a common danger tigers and 
sheep lay aside their mutual antipathies, should not have 
made his metaphor move more cautiously. I have myself 
known of a tiger and a herd of cattle on the same half- 
acre of ground during a flood, and the tiger seemed the 
most ill at ease of all the company. Thus accurate Tenny- 
son, "Gareth and Lynette," has, the "lion and stoat isled 
together in time of flood;" and Leyden, in the "Scenes of 
Infancy" — 

" When the storm through Indian forests runs, 

Floats far and loud the hoarse, discordant yell 
Of ravening pards, which harmless crowd the dell. 

The barbarous tiger whets his fang no more 
To lap, with torturing pause, his victim's gore. 
Curb'd of their rage, hyaenas gaunt are tame, 
And shrink, begirt with all-devouring flame." 

Its appearance, the poets say, commands no such re- 
spect from other beasts as the lion's is said to do — though 
Livingstone says those who meet a lion will be much dis- 



36 Posts' Beasts. 

appointed if the} - expect to see anything but a very large 
dog-like animal. Its eyes are "glowing flames" (Chatterton), 
and " fire-ball " eyes u that make horrid twilight in the sun- 
less jungle 1 ' 1 (Montgomery) ; they "flash" and "glare." 
But there is nothing of awe in the aspect of the tiger, 
according to the poets, except to such poor things as lambs 
and kids and fawns. Blake is a notable exception, in the 
poem commencing — 

"Tig 

In the fore 

immortal hand or eye 
Could form thy fearful ?ymme: 

Its voice is "dreadful/' it "growls terrific," but it has 
no effect upon the surrounding forests and its inhabitants, 
such as the roar of lions is supposed to have when they 

" From dreams (raked by maddening thirst, 

a the lone caves, in which they shrank from light, 
- through the hideous night, 
When darkness seems alive, and all the air 
Is one tremendous uproar of despair." — Montgomery. 

The - tiger's yell,'" "hideous howl,'' "voice more 

horrid than the roar of famished tiger leaping on his prey,'' 
and other expressions of objection to the sound are very fre- 
quent, but none of them give any notion at ail of the supreme 
awfulness of the real voice in nature, that literally hushes 
the jungle and fills the twilight with horror. Not that tigers 
roar much. When, as in Darwin, "with kindling flame, he 
hears the love-lorn night-call of his brinded dame," the 
t has a vl . and dreadful utterance, but Mont- 

- So Jean Ir.~t" m — 

les of the jungle reed 
Whose heats are lit with tiger eyes." 



The Heptarchy of the Cats. $7 

gornery comes nearer to the actual sound when he calls it a 
"groan." As a matter of fact, it is something between a 
cough and a groan. 

Is the lion or the tiger the superior in courage and 
strength ? There is little evidence on record to help us to 
a decision, but all that there is is completely in favour of 
the tiger. The two animals have often been put together 
to fight, but the lion has invariably declined the combat. 
They have accidentally got into each other's cages, and 
the tiger has killed the lion. Feats of strength are authen- 
ticated of the tiger to which the lion can, on evidence, lay 
no claim ; and as regards their comparative courage in the 
presence of man, the evidence goes to prove the superiority 
of the tiger. Says Livingstone, for instance, " Lions would 
seem to be inferior in power to the Indian tiger." For 
myself, then, I give the preference without hesitation to 
the tiger. 

Yet in the poets the tiger forms, of course, part of the 
courtier-retinue of the lion — "Gaunt wolves and sullen 
tigers in his train" (Collins) — for the lion, as Spenser, Allan 
Ramsay, and others state, defeated the tiger in single com- 
bat, when the prize was the sovereignty of the animal world. 
Cowley speaks of the lion as thirsting for tigers' blood, and 
again of the " dreadful " (that is, full of dread) tiger trembling 
at even the slumbering lion — 

" When he lies down the woods a dreadful silence keep, 
And dreadful tigers tremble at his sleep." 

Southey, imitating this fancy, does the same, and speaks of 
tigers " trembling " while the lion sleeps ; while several others 
describe the two as meeting, and the tiger giving way. 
Thus Wilson — 

" The shaggy lion rushes to the place, 
With roar tremendous seizes on his prey. 
Exasp'rate see ! the tiger springs away, 



3S The Poets Beasts. 

Stops short, and maddens at the monarch's growl ; 
And through his eves darts all his furious soul. 
Half willed, yet half afraid to dare a bound, 
He eyes his loss, and roars, and tears the ground. 1 ' 

Yet in spite of the poets I am of opinion that a very 
considerable dignity attaches to the Raja of the Jungles. 
Sportsmen know well what a solitude the tiger creates for 
itself by its simple presence, and what an overwhelming 
awe possesses all wild life when its voice is heard. The 
wild boar, it is true, will turn upon it, but then the wild 
boar is the type among the beasts of a chivalry that is 
Quixotic in its rashness ; and the tiger by this presump- 
tuous conduct often arrives at pork that he could not other- 
wise have captured. Sometimes, however, he is killed by the 
boar. But what supremacy in the world is not challenged at 
some time or another by foolhardy subjects or overweening 
rivals ? Does the lion " walk his kingly path " unchallenged ? 
On the contrary, he has to yield the path very often. 

In the tiger's manner of life, lording it over the unrivalled 
jungles of India, there is an undoubted majesty, while its 
amazing physical powers bespeak the monarch of a king- 
dom where might is right, and befit it as the steed of Hari 
and the emblem of Shiva. 

In metaphor, therefore, though frequently recurring, the 
tiger has but a very narrow range. Spenser's Spumnador 
rides on one — 

•• Upon a tygre swift and fierce he rode, 
That as the winde ran underneath his load, 
\\ ile his long legs nigh raught unto the ground." 

All very bloodthirsty personages, like royal enemies of 
('.reat Britain, "daring the lion," or their soldiers — "Gallia's 
tigers,'' for instance, who " fight with tiger zeal ; " or disre- 
putable heroes of the Byronic Corsair or Moore's Ghebir 
type ; or wicked sycophants of the powerful, or oppressors 



The Heptarchy of the Cats. 39 

of the weak, are all "tigers." So Wrong itself and Evil 
Passions are symbolised by the tiger, Wrath is "tiger- 
passioned " (Keats), and — the climax of insidious and abomi- 
nable cruelty — the gout is " half tiger, half a snake " (Arm- 
strong). Once only is the beast amiable, and that is in a 
general revolution of animal character which Darwin delight- 
fully imagines in his "Loves of the Plants : " — 

" Charmed on the brink, relenting tigers gaze, 
And pausing buffaloes forget to graze ; 
Admiring elephants forsake their wood, 
Stretch their wide ears, and wade into the flood. 
In silent herds the wondering sea-calves lave, 
Or nod their slimy foreheads o'er the wave ; 
Poised on still wing attentive vultures sweep, 
And winking crocodiles are lulled to sleep ; " 

and once again, when Chatterton sees them " wanton with 
their shadows in their stream." 

But in Chatterton all things were permissible ; x and 
Moore, perhaps, need create no surprise when he assures 
us that even the hungriest tiger will not eat a " Ghebir " 
man, knowing him to be "a thing untamed and fearless as 
themselves." But why does Shelley make tigers fight with 
sea-snakes out in mid-ocean? or Campbell sing of tigers 
stealing along the bank of a North American river? or 
Somerville describe them in Mexico ? or why do Cowley 
and Byron speak of spotted tigers ? 

" The tiger's litter ; but whoe'er 
Would seek to save the spotted sire or dam 
Unless to perish by their fangs?" 

1 For instance, this impossible convention of animals — 

" The rampynge lyon, felle tygere, 

The bocke that skyppes from place to place, 
The olyphaunte and rhynocere 

Before me throughe the greene-woode I did chase." 

— Parlyamente of ' Spry! a. 



40 The Poets Beasts. 

" He swells with angry pride, 

And calls forth all his spots on every side." 

For once the poets have nearly managed to make a wild 
beast a real wild beast, and these variations from nature are 
as deplorable as they were unnecessary. 

As I have said before, " there is no nonsense about the 
tiger, as there is about the lion/' He does not go about 
imposing on people. Wolves may, if they like, pretend that 
are only dogs gone wrong from want of a better bring- 
ing-up, and the lion swagger as if he were something more 
than a very large cat ; but the tiger never descends to such 
-rication, setting himself up for better than he is, or 
claiming respect for qualities which he knows he does not 
possess. There is no ambiguity about anything he does. 
bis character is on the surface. " I am," he says, " a 
thoroughgoing downright wild beast, and if you don't like 
me you must lump me ; but in the meanwhile you had 
better get out of my way." Tnere is no pompous affecta- 
tion of superior "intelligence" about tigers. If they are 
met with in jungles, they do not make-believe for the 
purpose of impressing the traveller with their uncommon 
magnanimity, or waste time like the lion in superfluous roar- 
of heads, or "looking kingly." On the con- 
trary, they behave honestly and candidly, like the wild 
beasts they are. They either retire precipitately with every 
confession of alarm, or in their own fine outspoken way 
w go for the stranger." Nor when they make off do they 
do it as if they liked it or had any half mind about it — as 
the lion, that Livingstone tells us trots away slowly till it 
thinks itself out of sight and then bounds off like a grey- 
hound — wasting time in pretentious attitudes or in trying 
to save appearances. They have no idea of showing off. 
If they mean to go, they go like lightning, and don't for 
a dt. nk of the figure they may be cutting. But 

if, on the other hand, they mean fighting, they give the 



The Heptarchy of the Cats. 4 1 

stranger very little leisure for misunderstanding their in- 
tentions. 

The tiger, therefore, deserves to be held in respect, as a 
model wild beast, for he knows his station, and keeps it, 
doing the work that Nature has given him to do with all 
his might. Life has only one end for him, the enjoyment 
of it, and to this he gives the whole of his magnificent 
energies. Endowed with superb capabilities for taking 
lives and preserving his own, he exercises them to the 
utmost in this one direction, without ever forgetting for an 
instant that he is only a huge cat, or flying in the face of 
Providence by wishing to be thought anything else. One 
result of this is that the tiger finds no place in folk-lore 
outside of India and (in a demoniacal form) Cathay. There 
was, it is true, a stream somewhere in Fairyland that turned 
donkeys into " tigers," but the name is used here only as 
the extreme antithesis of the inoffensive ass. 

LEOPARD. 

Owing to the mystery in heraldry about the identity of 
the Leopard, and the confusion in myths and folk-lore, not 
only between this animal and the panther — which is allow- 
able, seeing that science is still unable to decide the question 
of their variety — but even between the leopard, lion, 1 and 
tiger, the poets have found in it (whether we call it libbard, 
pard, pardel) a thoroughly suitable subject for poetical 
treatment. Having no definite individuality, it can be 
treated very liberally as to manners, appearance, "and attri- 
butes, and there is little margin for criticism of the liberties 
which poets may take. 

They have, therefore, this justification for their " leopards," 
that the sources from which they usually draw their zoolo- 

1 Thus Broome makes Achilles terrific in "a leopard's spotted 
spoils." 



42 The Poets' Beasts. 

gical information are exceptionally muddy on the question 
oifelis pardus. 

Thomson calls " the lively shining leopard, speckled o'er 
with many a spot," " the beauty of the waste ; " Wordsworth 
has u the lively beauty of the leopard ; " Dryden, " the lady 
of the spotted muff;"' Morris has '"spotted leopards t 
that through the cane-brakes move, unseen as air ; " Moore, 
" such beauties might the lion warm : " Jean Ingelow has 
" the fair leopard, with her sleek paws laid across her little 
drowsy cubs," and so on : while the other touches of Nature 
— " elegant." " light," " of easy grace " — all connote a thing 
of beauty. " Freckled like a pard,"' says Keats, wishing to 
enhance the loveliness of the Lamia snake ; and Tennyson 
has, " eyed like the evening s 

In Darwin it is the lover — 

" And now a spotted Pard the lover .- 
Plays round her steps and guards her favoured walks. 
As with white teeth he prints her hand, caressed, 
And lays his velvet paws upon her breast, 
O'er his round face her snowy fingers strain 
The silken knots." 

In Leyden, the " brinded panther fierce " does not a 
but why should Heber, with his Indian experience, say " the 
brindled pard?" Truly may Herbert, though in another 
significance, say, M in a leopard the spots are not observed."' 
Campbell, with his characteristic independence in matters of 
fact, places "panthers "' in New South Wales. 

Otherwise they have no place in poets' Nature. Keats 
has "pard with prying head,"' a delightful phrase: Hood 
speaks very happily indeed of a sound "distantly heard, as 
of some grumbling pard," and Morris, always in sympathy 
with Nature, has " the stealthy leopard whining '' as it creeps 
from out the thicket. But except Moore's absurd conceit 
of leopards mistaking loosened stones for prey, and 



The HeptarcJiy of the Cats. 4 3 

" Long heard from steep to steep, 
Chasing them down their thundering way," 

and one or two incidental " pards " that happen to fit into 
rhymes, the animal does not appear. 

Yet when we remember the importance of the leopard in 
heraldry, and its frequent appearance both in art and the 
fancies of antiquity, it seems somewhat curious that it should 
have found such scanty favour. As part of "panthered 
Bacchus' jolly retinue " we meet with it in Keats and one or 
two other poets, while' in Shakespeare, Scott, and elsewhere, 
allusion is made to our national "leopard." As referred to 
in Holy Writ in connection with the indelible Ethiopian, 
it receives due notice from the worthy Hurdis and from 
Cowper as being a beast of prey, and therefore, in the 
coming days of a universal peace, predestined to lie down 
with the lamb. 

Sacred to Pan, Chief President of the Hills, and the 
favourite of Dionysus, its skin was once the honourable 
badge of priesthood ; the Greek gods and Greek heroes 
wore it on state occasions, and it is still one of the supreme 
insignia of royalty in Africa. 



PANTHER. 

When the Panther — "the viceroy panther " of Dryden's 
parable — is mentioned by name, it generally adds something 
of solitude to the leopard idea. The poets' leopard is a 
graceful, pretty beast, fit to be a lady's pet. The panther 
is of a somewhat gloomier sort. It "ravens" occasionally, 
and is often found in the dreadful company of tigers, 
hyaenas, and other beasts of reproach. A savour of covert 
malignity attaches to the animal. 

But it is still beautiful. Says Dryden, " fairest creature 
of the spotted kind ; " Shelley, " a pard-like spirit, beautiful 



44- The Poets Beasts. 

and swift,"' and again, "sleeping in beauty on the mangled 
prey, as panthers sleep ; " Wordsworth — 

" He was a lovely youth ! I guess 
The panther in the wilderness 
Was not so fair as he," 

and so with others. In the East a " panther waist," " panther 
elegance," is a stereotyped phrase in the description of 
Oriental beauty. But even in these (Dryden's having a 
covert significance), the touch of the beast of prey is not 
wanting — it is fleet of foot, a thing of the wilderness, sleeping 
on its mangled prey — while in the majority of references it 
is a downright wild beast — " skulking," the guilty accomplice 
of wolves, '•' the bloody panther " by which A. Wilson must 
mean the cougar or puma, or else mean nothing, for there 
is no large spotted carnivore in North America, "ruthless 
panther," " furious pard,' ! and so forth. At sunset it rushes 
out after prey " from the roots of Lebanon." ravages the red 
man's "fold" (in E. Cook — whom the Saints preserve!); 
"in his desperate fierceness, defying and bold;" is found 
(in Glover) on Hydaspes' side or Eastern Indus cooling his 
"reeking jaws" after "feasting on the blood of some torn 
deer," 

" Which nigh his cruel grasp 
Had roamed unheeding in the secret shade ; " 

and very often besides is spoken of as a fierce carnivorous 
brute — which, in spite of its beauty and fragrance, the 
panther or leopard undoubtedly is. To kill this animal, 
therefore, was, the poets tell us, " the highest glory and 
the greatest joy " of North American foresters, and its spoils 
"the prime trophy" of Ethiopian spears. Somerville, 
therefore, includes the panther in the beasts of chase, and 
gives the following singular receipt for the successful hunt- 
ing of the beast, though it might be objected that the carry- 



TJic Heptarchy of the Cats. 45 

ing about of large mirrors, when out after panthers, in such 
scenes as they inhabit would be a cumbrous matter — 

" Fierce from his lair springs forth the speckled pard, 
Thirsting for blood and eager to destroy ; 
The huntsman flies, but to his flight alone 
Confides not : at convenient distance fix'd, 
A polish'd minor stops in full career 
The furious brute ; he there his image views : 
Spots against spots with rage improving glow. 
Another pard his bristly whiskers curls, 
Grins as he grins, fierce menacing, and wide 
Distends his op'ningjaws; himself against 
Himself oppos'd, and with dread vengeance arm'd, 
The huntsman, now secure, with fatal aim 
Directs his pointed spear, by which transfix'd 
He dies, and with him dies the rival shade." 

The poets, in fact, divide their leopard into two (as many 
sportsmen do for the sake of augmenting their trophies) so 
as to seem to be talking of more than one animal, reserving 
the leopard to convey ideas of grace without undue ferocity, 
and the panther for ferocity that even personal beauty does 
not condone. It is a " bearded " beast of " panther-peopled 
solitudes " (Shelley), that " howls " in the wilderness (Camp- 
bell), and dies of the sirocco in African deserts (Darwin). 
And, indeed, in Nature, it is by no means a mere plaything. 
For the " panther" — by which name Oriental sportsmen call 
the larger specimens or, as some zoologists affirm, the larger 
species of leopard — is very often a man-eater. And this not 
from the necessities of decrepitude, as with the tiger, but 
from choice. For the panther frequently enters huts to 
carry off an inmate, though the village cattle, past which 
it had come, offered a less perilous capture. Its strength 
is surprising, for it can break the neck of full-grown cattle, 
and carry sheep over a wall seven feet in height. When 
attacked, it is, in the opinion of many sportsmen, quite as 
formidable as the royal wearer of the stripes. It feeds only 



46 The Poets Beasts. 

on the largest game, the sambhur stag, nilghai, cattle, horses, 
and man — one panther in the Gwalior state having been 
known to kill fifty human beings in one district. If wounded 
from a tree it will climb up to its assailant and attack him 
there, and will charge an elephant as cheerfully as the 
tiger does. 

The leopard (I am here accepting the theory that there 
really are two species of the animal), though not so formid- 
able, is still a dangerous antagonist, but, as a rule, it does 
not aspire to larger victims than sheep and goats, the smaller 
varieties of deer and antelope, calves, and, above all, dogs. 
Now the poets, as Broome and Somerviile. seem to think 
the leopard looks upon the dog as its natural master and 
conqueror, whereas the fact is that the leopard looks upon 
the dog as its natural food. The leopard's taste for dogs is 
certainly one of the most extraordinary phenomena in natural 
history. We say that cats like fish and that monkeys are 
fond of nuts, but these are mere passing whims, caprices of 
the moment, compared to the constant passion of leopards 
for dogs. It is a very Chinaman for its delight in puppy, for 
it will follow a man for miles like his shadow if a dog be at 
his heels, — and it will be a very extraordinary dog indeed if 
it does not at last give the leopard its chance. The best of 
them sometimes commits the indiscretion of loitering behind 
its master or running out of sight round a corner in front of 
him, and if it does this with a leopard on the track nothing 
more is ever seen of the dog, and nothing more heard of it 
but a last squeal as it is swiftly snatched up off the path and 
carried, with a sudden rustle of foliage, down the hill-side. 
At night, leopards will prowl round the tent, sniffing under 
the canvas for the dog that they can smell within, or in the 
hill stations will boldly come down among the houses and 
carry off the pet of the establishment, though servants may 
be moving about. It is on record that in the station of 
Gumsoor not a single dog escape 1, and nearly every 



The Heptarchy of the Cats. 47 

resident of India who has ever camped out in the jungle 
where leopards are, or has lived in " the hills," has had some 
tragic experience of this mania of the leopard for dogs. 

In about the same degree, but obviously for very different 
reasons, the monkey takes the most profound interest in 
the leopard, and when one is afoot the four-handed folk 
follow him as closely as they dare, shaking the branches in 
their absurd rage, chattering furiously at their enemy, and 
making faces at him. Sometimes, however, the leopard 
stops abruptly and glares at them, and the wretched 
monkeys, gathering overhead, get so excited in their demon- 
strations that one of their number is pretty sure to lose its 
balance and tumble into the leopard's mouth. 

A tradition was once widely current that the panther was 
sweetly-scented — says Dryden, "the panther's breath was 
ever famed for sweet " — and that this fragrance was so fas- 
cinating to some small animals that it enticed them to their 
death in the jaws of the aromatic beast. 1 It is a fact, how- 
ever, that the panther itself is peculiarly sensible to perfumes, 
and among other instances is one of undeniable authen- 
ticity of a panther being tamed with lavender water. 

A part of this tradition is no doubt the existence of a 
mythic animal called the " panthera," of which the bones 
were of great lustre and exquisite odour. One of the 
three "rarities" which Reynard the Fox pretended he 
had got for the Queen was a comb. " This comb was 
made of the bone of a noble beast called Panthera, which 
lives between the greater India and earthly Paradise. He 
is so beautiful that he partakes of all the loveliest hues 

1 Spenser thus alludes to another tradition — the power of the panther 
to fascinate, like the snake, by sight — 

" The panther, knowing that his spotted hyde 

Doth please all beasts, but that his looks them fray, 
Within a bush his dreadful head doth hide, 

To let them gaze whylst he on them may prey." 



4S The Poets Beasts. 

under heaven ; and the smell of him is so sweet and whole- 
some that the very savour cures all infirmities. He is 
the physician of all animals that follow him, and has one 
fair bone, broad and thin, in which, when slain, are contained 
the whole virtues of the animal. It can never be broken 
nor consumed by any of the elements : yet it is so light 
that a feather will poise it, and it can receive a fine 
polish."' 

In metaphor these twin animals are very unfruitful in the 
poets' hands. As being beautiful but of faulty character, 
they supply the fabulist with a satire — in Dryden on the 
English Church, in Gay on a vain beauty, in Spenser a 
cruel one, in Moore a dissolute one. And as being fierce, 
a simile for impetuous soldiery, as "the sword of the 
Moslem," and the British attack. 

JAGUAR, PUMA, CHEETAH. OUNCE. 

Two or three poets mention the "Jaguar*" and the "fell 
Puma that feeds on the colt and the steer." and once by 
inference (in Somerville) the cheetah is indicated. Nor 
in the case of the last-named is obscurity altogether unjusti- 
fiable, for, except as part of the hunting equipage of princes, 
Asiatic and African, or — in the case, for instance, of Semend- 
manik, the favourite of Akhbar — as royal pets, the cheetah 
is an inconspicuous animal in its own countries. 

At the same time it should not be forgotten that the 
cheetah is the real " pard " of the ancients, and therefore 
the animal that the poets really mean, though they do not 
know it, when they refer to "leopards" of antiquit)'. 

But, in the case of the other two furred princes, the truly 
royal jaguar, and the very picturesque and sometimes very 
ferocious puma — or cougar, 1 mountain lion, or panther of 
Western America — such neglect is perhaps more noteworthy. 

1 " Cougar's deadly spring." — Mrs ILmans. 



The Heptarchy of the Cats. 49 

The lives of these creatures are in themselves poems, when 
we think of the territories they rule over, and the romances 
of the country — Mexican, Red Indian, Peruvian — in which 
they lord it, among the ruins of a desolated civilisation in 
the midst of dwindled nations. Around these animals 
numerous legends have of course gathered. Thus, the 
jaguar and boa are supposed to have an hereditary blood- 
feud — a fact Shelley would have delighted to know — and 
the jaguar, again, will not harm children, while the pretty 
story of Maldonata and her puma revives with graceful 
additions the old Androcles tradition. 

Shelley and Keats both mention the Ounce by name, the 
former in error for the cheetah, in the line — 

" As hooded ounces cling to the driven deer," 

the latter to get a rhyme for "pounce" — "pard or ounce." 
This animal, however, is simply the leopard adapted by 
nature for existence in a bitterly cold climate, and is pro- 
bably the most beautiful wild-beast on our earth — and one 
of the most powerful. It is the " snow-leopard " of Eastern 
sportsmen, and its fleecy skin, silvery white or primrose 
yellow, with black rings and rosettes and rather larger than 
an average leopard's, is one of the choicest trophies of the 
Himalayan shikarry. The Zoological Gardens have never 
possessed a specimen of this rare and lovely carnivore. 

To conclude this chapter with a quotation from my Essay 
in Unnatural History a — 

"The lesser carnivora," as they are called, play a very 
important part in the political system of the beasts. They 
are the great feudatory princes or viceroys of the wild world. 
Claiming kinship with royalty, they possess within their 
respective earldoms all the privileges of independent 

1 "Noah's Ark, an Essay in Unnatural History." Sampson, Low, 
&Co. 

D 



50 The Poets Beasts. 

sovereigns, and the powers of life and death. At the head 
of fierce clans, they often defy the central authority, and, 
retiring within their own demesnes, maintain there almost 
royal state. Such are the puma, jaguar, leopard, and 
panther. The two latter are to the East what the others 
are to the West, and their lives, whether we consider the 
kindliness of Nature to them in their beauty and strength, 
or their strange immunity from harm, are equally to be 
admired and envied. They live, it is true, within the empire 
of the lion, but only as, in the days of the Heptarchy, the 
Mercian or the Northumbrian prince would have called 
himself "within the realm" of the Bretwalda; as in the 
early days of France the Dukes of Soissons or Burgundy 
acknowledged their vassalage to Paris ; or, earlier still, only 
as Acarnacia or Locris confessed the supremacy of Sparta. 
There is respect on both sides, and therefore a large 
measure of peace within the satrapies of the Cats." 



Though it cannot claim an equal dignity with any of the 
seven animals I have grouped under the Heptarchy, the 
Lynx is distinctly of the aristocracy. Moreover, it is a 
delightful wild beast, savage, carnivorous, and something of 
an assassin, as wild beasts should be — and all the more 
delightful for being European. We have so few picturesque 
ferine touches in the domesticated Nature of our civilised 
Continent that the lynx could hardly be spared. There is 
the wolf, of course — but the wolf is, perhaps, too serious an 
animal. Failing sheep, it will content itself with children. 
There is the bear too, but the bear is seldom in the way. 
Its habits are retiring; its diet, by preference, innocent. 
So that it cannot be considered a disagreeable addition to 
European Fauna. The lynx comes midway between the 



The Heptarchy of the Cats. 5 1 

two. It has a taste for mutton, but would prefer the lambs 
coming into its private retreats to having to go and fetch 
them out of the public meadow. Now, when we speak of 
the ravages that wild animals commit, we forget that they 
are usually of our own prompting or creating. We set to 
work and cultivate a district, and populate it, driving out 
or exterminating the natural food of the beasts, and then 
fill large spaces with our own helpless " domestic " animals. 
After this, if the wild beasts eat these we exclaim against 
them, quite overlooking the fact that in most cases we have 
made such consumption a necessity of ferine existence, and 
in all have put temptation in the wild beasts' way in a most 
immoral manner. 

And lynxes do not hesitate to avail themselves of their 
opportunities, and this with such wastefulness that they will 
kill far more sheep than they eat. But then beasts do not 
know any better. When they get amongst lambs they are 
like children among daisies, who murder the poor innocent 
flowers by thousands, leave them lying in heaps close by 
where they picked them, and go dripping daisies along the 
road all the way home. 

For some reason or another these animals have acquired 
the reputation of an extraordinarily piercing eyesight, and 
from thee arliest times have been credited with the power of 
seeing through opaque bodies. This fiction would appear 
to constitute its chief claim to poetical regard. " Watchful," 
Crabbe, Byron, Drayton, and others call it. 

" Thus parents also are at times short-sighted, 
Though watchful as the lynx." 

Nor is the epithet misapplied, for, like every other species 
of cat, it is very watchful, and indeed in the patience of 
its ambuscades exhibits a somewhat special vigilance. So 
"calculation"' is, poetically, lynx-eyed. It is the antithesis 
of the mole and bat. The prophet borrows its vision — 



52 The Poets Beasts. 

" Now with a lynx-eye 
I see, looking into future time," 

says Cowper's Adam. From this reputed keenness of sight, 
"lynx" comes to signify a cruel eagerness in detection, as 
of officers of the Inquisition ; and Keats, by a curious form 
of what may be called metastasis, make the eyes which 
can see far be themselves seen from a distance — 

" As deep into the wood as we 
Might mark a lynx's eye." 

He does not, of course, mean a long distance, but the 
transference is worth nothing. 

Mrs. Hemans, referring to the Piedmontese variety, has 
the armed Jager pursuing it 

" Above the clouds of morn ; " 

and there is probably no length to which the hunter, if he 
saw any chance of bagging it, would not follow such a 
quarry, for the lynx wears a very valuable and beautiful fur 
— said to be worth three times as much as the sable's — and 
is moreover a beast well worth the hunting if only for its 
endurance and courage. It is still to be found in Scandi- 
navia, the greater part of Central Europe, and, of course, in 
Russia, and as one of the three beasts of prey worth calling 
such — the other two being the bear and the wolf — deserves 
to be considered really notable. 

But it is not, as is supposed, "untamable." The Gaek- 
war of Baroda has a regular pack of trained lynxes, for 
stalking and hunting pea-fowl and other kinds of birds. I 
have myself seen a tame lynx that had been taught to catch 
crows — no simple feat — and its strategy was as diverting as 
its agility amazing. It would lie down with the end of a 
string in its mouth, the other end being fast to a stake, and 
pretend to be asleep, dead asleep, drunk, chloroformed, 



The Heptarchy of the Cats. 53 

anything you like that means profound and gross slumber. 
A foot or so off it would be lying a piece of meat or a 
bone. The crows would very soon discover the bone, and 
collecting round in a circle, would discuss the probabilities 
of the lynx only shamming, and the chances of stealing his 
dinner. The animal would take no notice whatever, but lie 
there looking so limp and dead that at last one crow would 
make so bold as to come forward. The others let it do so 
alone, knowing that afterwards there would be a free fight 
for the plunder, and the thief probably not enjoy it after all. 
So the delegate would advance with all the caution of a crow 
— and nothing exceeds it — until within seizing distance. 
Then it would stop, flirt its wings nervously, stoop, take a last 
long look at the lynx to make sure that it really was asleep, 
and then dart like lightning at the bone. But if the crow 
was as quick as lightning, the lynx was as swift as thought, 
and lo ! the next instant there was the beast sitting up 
with the bird in its mouth ! 

Now its procedure was very singular. It knew that it 
was no use jumping straight at the crow ; it would be 
sure to miss it, and go under it. So at the moment 
that the bird darted at the bone, the lynx flashed up 
into the air, and caught the crow at the instant it had left 
the ground. 

Next time it had to practise a completely different 
manoeuvre. The same crows are not to be " humbugged " 
a second time by a repetition of the being-dead trick. So 
the lynx, when a sufficient number of the birds had 
assembled, would take the string in its mouth and run 
round and round the stake at the extreme limit of its tether 
as if it were tied. The crows, after their impudent fashion, 
would close in. They thought they knew the exact circum- 
ference of the animal's circle, and getting as close to the 
dangerous line as possible without actually transgressing it, 
would mock at and abuse the supposed-to-be-tethered brute. 



54 The Poets' Beasts. 

But all of a sudden the circling lynx would fly out at a 
tangent right into the thick of its black tormentors, and, as 
a rule, bag a brace, right and left 

Cowley has a very singular passage in one of his Juvenile 
Pieces, which is this — 

•' Let Cygnus pluck from the Arabian ww 
The ruby of the rock, the pearl that j i 
Great Neptune's court ; let eve:; bear 

From the three sisters" weeping bark z. 
Let spotted lynxes their sharp talor.i 
With crystal, fetch'd from I - .i.ean hill ; 

Let Cytherea's birds fresh wreaths compose, 
Knitting the pale- fa: 

The reference here — the lynx bringing crystals — is to the 
old-world fable of the " lyncurium/' a misnomer of the 
lapidaries of the time for " the Ligurian stone " (a repetition 
of the "g" in the Greek making the error of sound a \ 
easy one) or "jacinth." This gem was supposed to be pro- 
duced naturally by the lynx, that of the male being held in 
higher estimation than that of the female, as of purer colour 
and finer lustre. The jacinth is a lovely cr ..uch 

more agreeable and superior in tint to the best Brar 
topaz " (King's Nat. Hist, of Gems), but modern jewellers 
would appear to have confounded it with one of the garnets 
or cinnamon stones. The ancients, however, prized the 
"lynx-stone"' highly, and attributed to it strange potencies 
against jaundice and other ailments. 

In European fables the lynx is rarely mentioned, its place 
being filled for minor affairs by the cat, for greater by the 
leopard. But it has its traditions. Its con- 

sidered so piercing that it could see through solid n.. 
and long paces of time, so that Lynceus, who could see 
three weeks ahead, and Apoilonius' lynx, that looked through 
the earth and observed the proceedings of the devils in 
hell, are quite within its legendary potentialities. Another 



The Heptarchy of the Cats. 



55 



Lynceus was one of the Argonauts, and discovered obstacles 
long before they were in sight, to the great advantage of the 
Heroes — as every schoolboy knows. The Lynx Academy 
of Rome tcok the name as significant of the depth and 
keenness of the insight into Nature to which, in their 
studies, they hoped to attain. 




III. 

BEARS AND WOLVES. 

" Slender. Why do your dogs bark so? be there bears i' the town ? 

" Anne. I think there are, sir ; I heard them talked of. 

" Slender. I love the sport well ; but I shall as soon quarrel at it, as 
any man in England. — You are afraid, if you see the bear loose, are 
you not ? 

"Anne. Ay, indeed, sir. 

" Slender. That's meat and drink to me now : I have seen Sackerson 
loose twenty times, and have taken him by the chain : but, I warrant you, 
the women have so cried and shrieked at it, that it passed : but women, 
indeed, cannot abide 'em ; they are very ill-favoured rough things." 

In Nature, bears and wolves have very little indeed in 
common. They are opposed in appearance, habits of life, 
and character ; yet it would be difficult in all Poetry to 
find two wild animals more intimately associated. The 
shambling, fruit-eating, retiring, straightforward, and mild- 
mannered bear 1 differs most conspicuously from the agile, 
flesh-preferring, aggressive, crafty, and ferocious wolf. Never- 
theless in poetry they are as punctually bracketed together 
as larks and linnets. 

BEARS. 

Bruin, poor beast, has lost caste in public estimation, first 
of all, from the ignominious familiarity which its dancing 

1 English poets never speak of the grizzly bear, and I do not therefore 
include it in this epithet. 



Bears and Wolves. 57 

and being baited have induced ; and, secondly, from its 
apparently awkward personal appearance. 

Yet in freedom it is by no means a clumsy or ridiculous 
animal. When it sets itself going after any one it wishes to 
catch, the bear displays an agility and address which those who 
have been hunted by it declare to be amazing. And when it 
wants to extract beetle-grubs from the ground, or ants out of 
their nest, honey from a bee-tree, fruit off a slender bough, or 
birds' eggs out of a nest, it shows itself to be as ingenious 
and skilful as any other animal that has to live by its wits. 
To get, for instance, at the beetle-grubs, it scratches off the 
upper earth and then sucks them up out of the ground — an 
application of a scientific process which no animal without 
a prodigious reserve of air-force could hope to accom- 
plish. When it wishes to empty an ant-hive, it knocks 
the top off with its paws, and then, applying its mouth to 
the central gallery of the nest, inhales its breath forcibly, 
thereby setting up such a current of air that all the ants and 
their eggs come whirling up into his mouth like packets 
through a pneumatic tube. When robbing a hive it keeps 
one paw over its nose, its only vulnerable point, and when 
in quest of wild apricots or acorns it not only balances 
itself with all the judgment of a rope-walker, but uses its 
weight very cleverly so as to bring other boughs within 
reach of its curved claws. Nor, while doing this, does it 
guiltily conceal what it is about. On the contrary, when 
sucking at an ant-heap or grub-hole it makes such a noise 
that on a still evening it can be heard a quarter of a mile 
off, and when up a tree, and not alarmed, it goes smashing 
about among the boughs as if bears were not only the rightful 
lords of the manor, but as if there were no such things as 
enemies in the world. 

This secluded, simple-minded, unsuspecting animal con- 
trasts very strikingly with the guilty-seeming, stealthy, blood- 
preferring wolf. The poets, however, bring the two beasts 



58 The Pods' Beasts. 

into company as if they v. :ant associates in real 

life and habitual accomplices in crime. 

In poetry there are two kinds of bears— r.d-wood 

bear " and the bear at the end of a chain. The former is 
divided into the polar animal and the bear general — which 
also, it should be noted, is something polarish also ; Southey 
speaking of the common bear as seeking its food " o'er track- 
less snows," Thomson of it as icicled and so forth. The 
latter, that is to say, the captive bear, is also subdivided into 
the purely saltatory and the baited bear. 

Neither of them is popular with the bards. For the 
former, "the wild-wood bears," an unjust suspicion that it 
eats human beings, — a suspicion as old as our ballads — 

.:h bears he lives, with bears he feed=, 

appears to prejudice the minds of some of our poets. Many 
others look upon them as animals I - as in 

:;.ii: :.i'::: : i:.i :;.::.- A: L_:"..r. 

" Bears naturally are bea.- 

They are " cruelly fanged," as . and gloat over 

victims before devouring them, as in Spenser. " The 
bloody bear, an independent be. Drycen. In this 

aspect they are "rugged," "shapeless," and "shagged," 
on bears," and (in Heber) "heathen bears.'' They 
" howl " and ' 

h more true to Nature is Hiawatha's apostrophe — 
remembering only that "coward" : _ Jar phrase of 

Red Indian challer.. 

" Hark you, Bear, yon are a coward, 

Ar 1 :. - l::v; ^r jron ^:e:er.iti ; 

yoa would not cry and whimper 
Like a miserable woman ! 



Bears and Wolves. 59 

Bear ! you know our tribes are hostile, 
Long have been at war together. 
Now you find that we are strongest, 
You go sneaking in the forest, 
You go hiding in the mountains ! 
Had you conquered me in battle 
Not a groan would I have uttered : 
But you, Bear ! sit here and whimper, 
And disgrace your tribe by crying, 
Like a wretched Shangodaya, 
Like a cowardly old woman." 

Bret Harte's address to the " Grizzly " is perfection. 

But it is to the maternal triumph of licking her cubs into 
shape that the poetical attention is chiefly drawn ; l the 
poet's supercilious satisfaction being very much increased 
by the discovery that after all her labours the mother pro- 
duces nothing better than a bear. Thus Shenstone — 

" What village but has sometimes seen 
The clumsy shape, the frightful mien, 
Tremendous claws and shagged hair, 
Of that grim brute yclep'd a bear. 
He from his dam, the learn'd agree, 
Receiv'd the curious form you see, 
Who with her plastic tongue alone 
Produced a visage — like her own." 

And Pitt— 

" Thus when old Bruin teems, her children fail 
Of limbs, form, figure, features, head or tail ; 
Nay, though she licks her cubs, her tender cares 
At best can bring the Bruins but to bears." 

1 It is too late in years to refute this fiction seriously. But Sir 
Thomas Browne's argument against its verity (after having otherwise 
shown its complete fallacy) is worth quoting. "Besides," says he 
" (what few take notice of), men hereby do in a high measure vilify the 
works of God, imputing that unto the tongue of a beast which is the 
strangest artifice in all the acts of Nature." 



60 The Poets Beasts. 

And Pope — 

" So watchful Bruin forms with plastic care 
Each growing lump, and brings it to — a bear ! " 

Not, for myself, that I see anything derogatory to a she- 
bear in being the mother of bear-cubs, and nothing more. 

Nevertheless, the bear-cub she has not licked affords a 
delightful point. Thus Churchill, u a bear whom, from the 
moment he was born, his dam despised and left unlicked 
in scorn;" and Byron, "the she-bear licks her cub into a 
sort of shape ; my dam beheld my shape was hopeless." 

It is evident, though, that the poets are conscious of their 
want of familiarity with the wild animal. For, whether we 
meet it in a hot country as "the shaggy monster of the 
wooded wild," or see, with Darwin, 

" Slow o'er the printed snows with silent walk 
Huge shaggy forms across the twilight stalk ; " 

or with Savage, " the crackling vales, embrown'd with melt- 
ing snows, where bears stalk, tenants of the barren space," 
it is an undefined, mysterious, and, so to speak, still un- 
licked monster. Not, however, without a weird majesty ; 
in strict sympathy with the natural facts in Jean Ingelow — 

" The white bears all in a dim blue world, 
Mumbling their meals by twilight." 

Spenser's "white bears" are creatures of fancy — 

" I saw two Bears, as white as any milk, 
» together in a mighty cave, 
Of mild aspect, and hair as soft as silk, 
That savage nature seemed not to have, 

after greedy spoil of blood to crave ; 
Two fairer beasts might not elsewhere be found, 
Although the compassed world were sought around. 
But what can long abide above this ground 
In state of bliss, and stedi'as: happiness ? 



Bears and Wolves. 61 

The cave, in which these Bears lay sleeping sound, 
Was but of earth, and with her weightiness 
t'pon them fell, and did unawares oppress, 
That, for great sorrow of their sudden fate, 
Henceforth all worlds felicity I hate." 

As a performer on the village green, or as a retainer of 
the household, "creeping close amongst the hives, to rend 
an honeycombe," it has a distinct individuality, but as a 
wild beast none. Perpetually in use as an adjunct of savage 
scenes, it never seems to be described from the life. It 
always looms out from a distance, or from gloom,' and 
seldom comes close enough to us to be tangible or seen in 
detail. It is a convenient beast, but a shadowy one. and 
Butler (in his portrait of Potemkin) seems to me to sum up 
with tolerable fairness the whole of the poets' bear-lore— 

" The gallant Bruin march'd next him, 

With visage formidably grim, 

And rugged as a Saracen, 

Or Turk of Mahomet's own kin, 

Clad in a mantle delle guerre 

Of rough impenetrable fur ; 

And in his nose, like Indian king, 

He wore, for ornament, a ring : 

About his neck a threefold gorget, 

As rough as trebled leathern target ; 

Armed, as heralds cant, and langued, 

Or, as the vulgar say, sharp-fanged ; 

For as the teeth in beasts of prey 

Are swords, with which they fight in fray, 

So swords, in men of war, are teeth 

Which they do eat their vittles with. 

He was by birth, some authors write, 

A Russian, some a Muscovite, 

And 'mong the Cossacks had been bred, 

Of whom we in Diurnals read, 

That serve to fill up pages here, 

As with their bodies ditches there. 

Scrimansky was his cousin-german, 

Y\ ith whom he serv'd and fed on vermine ; 



62 The Poets Beasts. 

And when these fail'd he'd suck his claw?, 
And quarter himself upon his pa 

Unlike the Puritans, who hated bear-baiting — not because 
it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the 
spectators — the poets condemn the pastime as being cruel 
to Bruin. 

" How barbarously man abuses power ! 
Talk of the baiting, it will be replied 
Thy welfare is thy owner's interest, 
But wert thou baited it would injure thee, 
Therefore thou art not baited. For seven years — 
Hear it, O heaven ! and give ear, O earth .' — 
For seven long years this precious syllogism 
Hath baffled justice and humanity."' — Southey. 

Their sympathy is always with the bear that has "off-shakt" 
the "curres," and when the " cruell dogs'' get the better 
of him the poets punctually note that the bear was chained 
or muzzled. They use the simile of " ragged roaring bears 
rearing up against the baiters : ' ! for nobles attacked by 
those of lower degree, or for men of might beset by 
numbers. They knew well the spectacle — 

'■ When through the town, with 
Slow and solemn air, led by the nostril, 
Walked the muzzled bear." 

The Bankside bear-garden and Hockley Hole were familiar 
names, and the dancing Bruin has given at least three poets 
the subject for a poem, Leyden drawing the " moral '" from 
the exhibition that men learnt to dance from the bear, and 
might still improve their own saltations by imitating it — 

" From bears the dancer's art at first began, 
To monkey next it past and then to man ; 

1 Hood borrows the expression for the waves during a storm, "t 
jagged billows rearing up in war, like ragged roaring bears again - 
ba-.ter." 



Bears and Wolves. 63 

And still from bears, by Fate's unerring law, 

Their dance, their manners, men and monkeys draw " — 

and Southey, with excellent humour, using the old slave- 
trade arguments to persuade the bear that dancing is good 
for it — 

" We are told all things were made for man, 
And I'll be sworn there's not a fellow here 
Who would not swear 'twere hanging blasphemy 
To doubt that truth. Therefore as thou wert born, 
Bruin, for man, and man makes nothing of thee 
In any other way, most logically 
It follows, that thou must be born to dance, 
That that great snout of thine was formed on purpose 
To hold a ring, and that thy fat was given thee 
Only to make pomatum. 

To demur 
Were heresy. And politicians say 
(Wise men who in the scale of reason give 
No foolish feelings weight) that thou art here 
Far happier than thy brother bears who roam 
O'er trackless snows for food ; that being born 
Inferior to thy leader, unto him 
Rightly belongs dominion ; that the compact 
Was made between ye when the clumsy feet 
First fell into the snare, and he gave up 
His right to kill, conditioning thy life 
Should thenceforth be his property. Besides, 
'Tis wholesome for thy morals to be brought 
From savage climes into a civilised state, 
Into the decencies of Christendom." 

Xor were they ignorant of that other elegant Elizabethan 
pastime of "whipping blind bears." 

But of the "awkward," "uncouth," "shuffling" beas 
which they are so ready to put into their verse — 

" Rough tenant of the shades, the shapeless bear, 
With dangling ice ail horrid " — 

they had only the most delightful ignorance. 



64 The Poets Beasts. 

Yet what a large place the bear has fil'ed in the past. 
And how multitudinous and honourable are its associations. 
As the God of Thunder, the Bear-king of Storms, Bruin is 
perfectly majestic in cloud-myths. The tempest demons, 
black-bearded, are his children, and the thunder-clouds, 
ragged and gloomy, go rolling and roaring and foaming 
overboard, bears every one of them, and close on the heels 
of their prey. Turn it round to the sun-myth, and lo ! " the 
shining ones," the luminous sky, the bear — "Woful Calisto, 
when that Dian grieved was." In the one aspect horrific, as 
the bear-fiends of Dardistan or the shaggy terrors, every hair 
of iron, that awe the Russian peasant ; in the other, benign, 
" the honey-finder," or in Lapland, " the dog of God," or in 
Russia, " the old man with the fur cloak." On the one 
hand, the cruel instrument of the prophet at Bethel, a 
synonym for lurking mischief in the classics and in Holy 
Writ ; on the other, the nurse of Paris and of Atalanta — 

" Folk say that her, so delicate and white 
As now she is, a rough root-grubbing bear 
Amidst her shapeless cubs at first did rear. 
In course of time the woodfoik slew her nurse, 
And to their rude abode the youngling brought, 
And reared her up to be a kingdom's curse " {Morris) — 

the docile disciple of Saints, the gentle animal that played 
at soldiers with the children and so prettily befriended 
Snow-White and Rose-Red. 

Poetry, however, so diligent sometimes in availing itself 
of legend, takes no cognisance of the unusual prominence 
of the bear in history, heraldry, art, and folk-lore. The story 
of Valentine and Orson affords the subject of a ballad. 

" ' But who's this hairy youth ? ' she said, 
' He much resembles thee.' 
' The bear devoured my younger son, 
Or sure that son were he.' 



Bears and Wolves. 65 

' Madam, this youth with bears was bred, 
And reared within their den, 
But recollect ye any mark 
To know your son again ? ' " 

And the Russian and "the Persian beares," the badges of 
Warwick and Leicester, are referred to. But not a word 
for the legends of St. Ursus and St. Ursula, St. Maximin, 
St. Anthony, and St. Medard ; for Oursine or the Orsinis ; 
for the Cities of the Bears or the Bear Hills ; for the 
virgins of Artemis or the unhappy rival of Juno, mother of 
constellations, the terror of the Tyrrhenian mariners, who 
had unawares given Bacchus a free passage ; nor the bears 
of story, Gundramnus the church-builder, Restaurco the 
musician, and Tony Lampkins' bear that only danced to 
" the genteelest of tunes ;" Sackerson and Martin, Rollo and 
Marco, "the good bear of Lorraine," the ursine monsters of 
the Ramayana — the bear-kings, friends-in-arms of the Solar 
Hero — or all the hundred bear-myths of the world. How is 
it that not a hint of these distinctions in literature, and of 
ten times as many more that I have omitted, do not find 
even a passing reference in the poets ? Is it possible that, 
having formulated a bear of their own, which is " obscene " 
in Nature and ridiculous in captivity, they purposely avoided 
all appearance of countenancing the condoning dignities of 
Bruin's past? 

Once more, then, whence arose this strange antipathy to 
the bear? It could not have come from previous informa- 
tion, for all precedent honoured the animal. Nor was it 
from any knowledge of the bear in Nature. For the bear 
in Nature — I am speaking of the species which the poets 
supposed themselves to be speaking of — is really almost a 
lovable animal. It is a vegetable and fruit feeder, when it 
can get such food, and, failing its favourite viands, eats by 
preference insects. It is a delightful touch where Wilson 
makes the bear gaze ferociously en — beech-nuts. But, above 

£ 



66 Poets - 

everything, it doats c: remember the 

shabby trick of Sir Reynard when he : ;r Bruin from 

Malepardus to the carpenter's house on the pretence of 

im honeycombs? 

of the defaulting fox. and finds Re; . 9 be 

sick. He had eaten, h. \ reed 
•with him. K Wbal was be bear with a friendly 
solicitude. 

to know ? The 
food was simple and mean 

but are glad to eat from Dec . r mere wanton- 

ness. Yet not to del-; :-s honeycombs, large, 

full, and v ; ] 

modf 

quoih Bruin, 'honeycombs, do j id yon them in such 

I emperors 

:ney combs, and 
command me while I live : for:: : or servant 

■ beshrew ■ ■ 
am in such serious good ean : same yon 

shall count me 

I 
not be able to eat the whole at a mei 
for I wish ; :urs in return, which 

: ten of us ! ' cried the bear . 
had 1 
of it very shortly myse 

So Bruin g a and 

f nearly killed. 
fe is particularly innocent, and its ma: a role, 

-.he reverse of ft is. Hav:\ 

berries and buds, the bear returns to its pat- 

ting its paws into its mouth, lies hum:. 
I baby, sucking its thumbs and • 
precautic • -.surprise. Haw- 

berries or acorns till the sun is 
go into a deti 



Bears and Wolves. 67 

contentedly to itself, and so loudly that sportsmen are 
frequently guided from a distance to the purring spinning- 
wheel sound 1 which betrays it. 

There is something very touching, so I think, in the story 
of the men who, following up a wounded bear, found the 
beast behind an ice-boulder trying to staunch the flowing 
blood with snow. I like too to think of the other which dis- 
covered an empty whaling boat and got in, and — the moor- 
ings giving way under its somewhat violent boarding — went 
off on a cruise on its own account, and was seen by the 
unfortunate owners of the boat sitting up in the stern with 
every appearance of the most complete satisfaction. 

Folk-lore, as a rule, is just, and folk-lore is always kind 
to the bear. There are no fairy-tales or legends in which 
the bear is a villain. He is a blundering fool in several 
fables, but he is never unamiable. 

Writing many years ago on the il Fairies of Dardistan," 
I put into a hunter's mouth the following fragment of local 
folk-lore : — 

" I myself have never seen either Fairies or Demons, but I am a 
familiar of the Bears. It is not generally known, perhaps, but bears 
are the offspring of a man who, unable to pay his debts, went off to the 
woods and never came back again, for he married some wild forest 
thing and lived amongst the fir-trees to the end of his days. And his 
descendants understand our language, fall in love with human beings, 

1 Cuvier's bear " was particularly fond of sucking its paws, during 
which operation it always sent forth a uniform and constant murmur, 
something like the sound of a spinning-wheel." 

" The sucking of the paw, accompanied by a drumming noise when 
at rest, and especially after meals, is common to all bears, and during 
the heat of the day they may often be heard puffing and humming far 
down in caverns and fissures of rocks." The cause of this has often 
been speculated on, but Tickell imagines that it is merely a habit 
peculiar to it, and he states " that they are just as fond of sucking 
their neighbours' paws or the hands of any person as their own 
paws" (Jdrdcn). 



6S The Poets Beasts. 

and marry their children to each other much een a 

ding. It was just after the Fesst of F 
back tired along the Ghilgit road from Astor across the hi 
suddenly chanced upon a great convention of bears There were a 
hundred at least — brown and black, big and little — and ihey were all 
dancing round the wood-fires which they had lighted. Some of I 
had wreathed their heads i of straw and flowers, and were 

dancing solemnly, each by himself. Others had in the —ocks 

of long grass and faggots of fir- wood which they used as partners, a 
others danced two and three together, holding hands and p 
round and round. At each corner sate a I . 
for the others to dance in time to. And while [ was watching 
an old Belle ear of the conv from where he 

had been eating honey, with a long fir-branch in h :.i made all 

the others fall into two long lines, and then the bride and 
groom (who had been up a tree all I were called down and 

placed at the end of the row. And : 

danced, turning slowly round and round, down between the long 
of bears, and when they reached the other e gate a 

howl together, and scattering themselves among the woods began 
lecting viands for the feast. As some of them came in my 
ran off as l':. no more" 

Sir Bruin of the Reineke Fuchs is of the common type. 
He has great physical strength and fidelity of character, but 
he is so simple that adversaries always outwit him. He is 
no match for foxes, any more than the bear-heroes Sir 
Bors, or Jubal or Earl Arthgal of the Table Round, or any 
of those heavy slumberous giants, upon whose persons small, 
agile, and invincibly-armed heroes performed suchproc.- 
of valour. 

The bear is the sleepy summer thunder of Scandinavian 
myth. It is of a mumbling grumbling kind, happy en 
in an old-country-gentleman sort of way when unmolested, 
but testy in the matter of strange neighbours and trespassers. 
It is a stubborn Conservative, a Legitimist, a protest of 
Routine against Reform. Daniel makes it a symbol of 
faithlessness ; but he evidently did not know as much about 
bears as he did. or ought to have known, about lions, or he 



Bears and Wolves. 69 

would have been aware that bears are very generous, never 
returning to harm a helpless or fallen adversary. "Women," 
says Slender, "cannot abide them, they are very ill-favoured 
rough things ; " but there is an abundant dignity about 
them nevertheless. They are among the seniors of the 
quadrupeds in Nature, and in Art they brought no declen- 
sion from eminence to such as bore them on their shields 
— the greatest of monarchs, of earls, and of painters. 



wolves. 

" ' Well is knowne that,' sith the Saxon king, 
' Never was wolf seene, many nor some, 
Xor in all Kent, nor in Christendom.'" 

But there was a time, as Keats says, " while yet our Eng- 
land was a wolfish den," when our ancestors called January 
"the wolf month," and prayed in their litanies for defence 
against them when estates were held on wolf-head tenure ; 
and many poets, Dryden, Somerville, Drayton, Addison 
amongst them, gratefully allude to the purging of our isles 
of these destructive pests. 

"Cambria's proud kings (tho' with reluctance) paid 
Their tributary wolves, head after head, 
The full account, till the wood yields no more, 
And all the rav'nous race extinct is lo?t." 

To the poets, therefore, with their allowable extensions 
of horizon and chronology, the wolf is a British animal : 
not in the way that the lion has become one, but on the 
more practical basis of previous existence in the country. 

" Full many a year his hateful head had been 
In tribute paid, nor since in Cambria seen." 

So it comes, perhaps, more familiarly off their pens than 
other animals. Its name, moreover, has become, almost 



70 The Poets' Beasts. 

universally, a synonym for twilight ferocity, so that the poets 
are to some extent justified in their attitude of detestation. 
In the cloud myth, the rough dark wolf is of course the 
night, and the white morning sheep-clouds escape from 
its clutches. But more especially it is the twilight, " the 
grey one" — in Holy Writ it is always "the evening wolf," 
or the "wolf of the evenings," — that wolf-gloom wherein 
malign influences are abroad, aitre chien et . 

Sir Isegrim in Reynard the Fox is the type of the rapacious 
baron. The king, more distant from the people, may pass 
for a lion, but the baron in his castle on the rock yonder, 
domineering over the servile plain, is the wolf, a present 
power for evil. So folk-lore and fables represent under this 
symbol the sentiments of European serfs or "villeins" to- 
wards their feudal oppressors. The hectoring style of 
argument with lambs ; the use of forced labour from 
asses ; evasion of contracts with cranes ; double-dealing 
affabilities to old she-goats with kids ; insidious counselling 
of dogs for disastrous combinations against their shep- 
herds ; treachery towards neighbouring wolves — in these and 
a score of other features the resemblance between wolf 
and baron is traced in popular literature. 

Worked in with these symbolical sketches are touches 
straight from the real wolf-life. Its surpassing cunning, its 
more than ferine intelligence, "effrayant de sagacite* et de 
calcul," distinguish it as the Bandit of the Beasts, and like 
all other communities of outlaws and criminals, the wolves 
are singularly superstitious. Elsewhere I note how easily 
they may be frightened, but I cannot help thinking that 
there is in this trait a striking analogy to the suspicious, 
superstitious timidity which characterises every gang of 
human wolves ; and which, sooner or later, brings them to 
the gallows or their deserts. But it is very interesting to 
remark the poetical method of bringing the wolf within the 
sweep of poetical opprobrium. 



Bears and Wolves. 71 

By daylight they make it the accomplice of vultures, and 
by night of owls, so that there is nothing too bad to say of 
the wolf. The fact is true enough of the animal in Nature, for 
it really is the Thug among the beasts. In other languages 
besides our, own Saxon, the criminal outlaw, the bandit, was 
said in legal phrase to be "wolf-headed" — there was a price on 
his life, and his destruction as a beast of prey was authorised 
and rewarded. But the synthetical process by which the poets 
arrive at the full compass of the wolf's iniquity is very pleas- 
ing. Tyranny and darkness are their special aversions, so 
the poets construct a wretch that preys by preference on the 
very weak, the most innocent, and the youngest, and then 
make it commit its violences by night. By this means the 
wolf not only alienates all the sympathies of the chivalrous 
and generous, but is branded as the nocturnal companion 
of such obscene, night-prowling things as owls and bats, 
night-ravens and hyenas. A dash of man-eating is then 
thrown in to exasperate the general sentiment of the sanctity 
of human life ; and, finally, to enlist against it human reve- 
rence for the dead and the beautiful maternal instinct, the 
beast is touched up with such details as the desecration of 
graves, corpse-eating, and baby-snatching. 

It is the "night-prowling," "savage," "fierce-descend- 
ing," "insatiate," "surly," "stern," "grim," "gaunt," 
"guilty," "wild," "shaggy," "black-jawed," "robber" 
wolf. Its voice is a "long" and "deep" howl, or "shrill" 
or "a low whine," "lugubrious dreary yell," and "death- 
boding." 

A dreadful adjunct of all scenes of dismal horror — " Near 
him the she-wolf stirred in the brake, and the copper-snake 
breathed in his ear" (Moore). Whenever a tragedy is on 
hand, the neighbouring thicket holds a wolf, or the rocky 
pine-glen yonder knows their lurking tread. There are few 
circumstances of more than ordinary wretchedness that are 
not accompanied by one of these animals, or a pack of 



J 2 The Poets Beasts. 

them, and at night the wolf's "howls" rise almost as 
punctually as the moon. It may be in Wilson's wild 
country — 

" Shrill, wildly issuing from a neighbouring height, 
The wolf's deep howlings pierce the ear of night ; 
From the dark swamp he calls his skulking crew, 
Their nightly scenes of slaughter to renew ; 
Their mingling yells sad savage woes express, 
And echo dreary through the dark recess." 

Or in (Faber's) civilisation — 

" From time to time a restless watch-dog bayed, 
And a cock crew, or from the echoing hill 
The wolf's low whine, prolonged and multiplied, 
Possessed the ear of night and over-ruled 
All other sounds." 

Being thus a thing of night, it becomes in poets' phrase 
" obscene," as in Leyden — 

" Beasts obscene frequent the lonely halls, 
Howling through windows waste the wolf appear'd." 

Or in egregious Thomson — 

"Wolves and bears and monstrous things obscene, 
That vex the swain and waste the country round ; " 

and it is punctually associated with that delightful fiction 
of the poets, the poetical owl. They are as thick as thieves, 
these two creatures, and always " on the patter " together. 
If you see Charley Bates coming up the street you may 
be sure the Dodger is in the immediate neighbourhood. 
The rascals converse in highwayman's slang. " The owlet 
whoops to the wolf below." The chances are they are 
decoys for each other, and divide the spoils of the victims 
whom they assassinate in company. Was there ever such an 
abominably comic partnership in crime — owls and wolves ! 



Bears and ll'ok'cs. 73 

And just as owls, after taking all the lower degrees of 
criminality, become in poetry " shrikkes " (which are of a 
specially venomous sort), ■ so wolves graduate into u were- 
wolves'' or " war-wolves " — that fearful fancy of the loup-garoit 
that has kept its hold upon popular terror in every country 
ever since the day when " wild Lycaon, changed by angry 
gods, and frighted at himself, ran howling through the 
woods." Their hairs are then used like owls' feathers by 
witches to mix with "madd dogges foames and adders 
eares. : ' They haunt Coleridge's woods with "vampyres" 
and other monstrosities, and their voices are alike "death- 
boding." 

This were-wolf superstition is a more ancient and persis- 
tent one. The horrid " Hyrcanians " were said to " become 
wolves " in the heat of battle, a more allowable metaphor, 
since historians talk commonly of British soldiers being 
" lions " and " tigers." So also the Xewri and Hirpini : and 
much later the same simile was frequently used in the Sages 
for the Berserkers ; and later still, in our own time, for the 
men of Norway and of Iceland, who " become wolves " in 
conflict. In Ireland I suspect the phrase would be found 
still extant, for the Irish, according to their own legends, 
are specially liable to being "people not of one skin," which 
is a euphemism for lycanthropes. Many individual instances 
are on record, notably that of the family whom St. Nathalie 
turned into were-wolves for seven years. But these could 
retaliate on occasion, as, for example, when St Patrick 
turned Vereticos, king of Wales, into a wolf. Ireland, 
indeed, would in this matter appear to be our Arcadia — 
the land of superstition ; for that province was conspicuous 
for its wolf traditions. Lycaon himself was a king of 
Arcadia, and the loup-garou was a household word in that 
"emerald-state." The hyaena and the vampyre are in some 
countries curiously mixed up with the wolf-myth, but by 
itself it possesses a very dreadful individuality. 



74 The Poets Beasts. 

" Therewith stalked forth into the way 
From out the thicket a huge wolf and gray, 
And stood with yellow eye,s that glared on me. 

Qy made me see 
No wolf, but some dread divinity in him." 

log.) 

To this day the supernatural wolf is an article of popular 
belief in Europe, and, if I am not mistaken, the men-wolves 
are far more dreaded than the beast-wolves in, say, Lithe- 
rania. At the feast of the Nativity they used to assemble 
in the churchyards, so it was said, and proceed at midnight 
to search for the dead or the belated living. They were, in 
fact, ghouls. Indeed the literature of this amazing supersti- 
tion passes belief. What are we to say of a whole multitude 
turning were-wolves in the canton in Jura, hunting for 
human flesh in pack, and being executed six hundred at 
one time ! 

Beware of men with meeting eyebrows : it is from these 
that legend says the were-wolves recruit their packs. 

That wolves — "assiduous in the shepherds' harms'" (King) 
— prey on flocks, is in itself quite sufficient to set poets 
against them. Does not the vulture suffer miserably in 
poetry from being accused of " pouncing " doves ? And 
are not doves and lambs equally engaging; and is not, 
therefore, the wolf as detestable as the vulture, with which, 
indeed (when it is seen abroad in daylight), it is nearly 
always to be found in partnership. So the poets have little 
sympathy for "the grim wolf that with privy paw daily 
devours apace," even when it is most hungry. Hunger, 
indeed, would hardly seem to be allowable at all in wolves : 
" wolf s-nagen " is a term of reproach. It is an aggravation 
of the offence instead of a palliation. If they would con- 
sent to eat strawberries they might fare no worse than the 
bears, but, as it is, that they should deliberately go forth 
and satisfy their detestable cravings with mutton — and now 



Bears and Wolves. 75 

and then with the mutton-herd himself — enrages the ordinary 
poet. Nor, when this infamous appetite for butchers' meat 
is indulged by a meal of lamb, are even the better poets able 
to control their generous indignation — 

" The gaunt wolf crouches to spring out on the lamb, 
And if hunger be on him, he spares not the dam." 

Worse than this is Colin's complaint — 

" They often devoured their owne sheepe, 

And often the shepheards that did hem keepe ; 
This was the first source of shepheard' s sorrow." 

The last line is a delightful one. 

Savage, Akenside, Rogers, and others extend their tender- 
ness from the lamb to its cousin the kid, but there is always, 
curiously enough, a reservation of sympathy from the fact 
that the kid was "straying." The lamb, on the other hand, 
is generally where it should be, " bleating near its fleecy 
dam ; " and the unprincipled conduct of the wolf takes 
therefore a deeper dye from the outrage on the ewe's feel- 
ings which accompanies that on the lamb's, while if the 
victim be carried out of a sheepfold there is the crime 
of housebreaking superadded. Supreme, however, in this 
particular class of offence was that wolf who married a lamb, 
and then ate her up after they had been only wedded 
a week. 

But sometimes it arrives that the shepherds get the better 
of the wolf, as in Chatterton's " Battle of Hastings " — 

" As when the shipster in his shadie bower 
Hears doublying echoe wind the wolfin's rore, 
That neare hys flocke is watchynge for a praie, 
With trustie talbots to the battel Hies, 
And yell of men and dogs and wolfins tear the skies." 

Or in " The Wanderer " — 



76 Poets' Beasts. 

" When lo ! an ambush'd - linger bold, 

Spr. prejr and fierce invades the fold, 

But by the pastor not in vain de 

: our arch-foe by some celestial guide." 

Or in Cowley — 

wild heart and e ; 
(Robbed, as he thinks, unjustly of his prize), 
Whom unawares the shepherd spies, and draws 
Tne bleating lamb from out his ravenous ; 

In metaphor this salvation of the lamb (and its attendant 
parents) is a very frequent figure, showing very pleasantly 
the general tendency of the poets to rejoice with the vir- 
tuous and innocent over their escape from consumption, 
and with the loyal custodian of another's property over his 

iph against the wicked-minded vagabond. 
:: is wonderful to note how often the legendary wolf 
appears in a benign aspect. For instance, we are told by 
Baronius that a number of wolves attacked a mona; 
and slew all the monks therein who held heretical opinions. 
Another pack tore to pieces the sacrilegious soldiers of the 
Duke of Urbino who had plundered the Loretto shrine. 

as a wolf that guarded the head of St. Edmund the 
Martyr from the other beasts, and a wolf that stepped in 
to defend St. Oddo, when on pilgrimage, from the attacks 
of wild boars. Just as it showed the Abbot of Cluny his 
way home, so the legend says it guided Adam, and the 

:s of Ceres, ani Deucalion. It dragged the cart of St. 

I Drgius, and tended the sheep of Xorbert. In Italy and 

Sicily its hide and head are supposed to endow the wearer 

with courage : they are charms against many perils, and a 

more than Stygian panacea for pain of all kinds. As a foster- 

•:- the she-wolf is perpetually recurrent in an amiable 
light, and legends in which the animals are benign are very 
numerous indeed. In Red Indian stories the amiable 
and pathetic sides of the wolf-idea are well brought out. 



Bears and Wolves. yy 

Thus Manobozho the mischief-maker meets a magician and 
his family, who are wolf-wizards, and is changed into the 
same form. They are very good to him, and keep him alive 
during a very severe winter. At times they play practical 
jokes upon him, but each has its moral for his advantage, 
and eventually Manobozho leaves them with much regret. 
In another story also the magician takes the wolf-shape in 
order to befriend the hero. In the legend of " Sheem the 
Forsaken " the benevolent trait is even more conspicuously 
illustrated. The child has been deserted by his elder 
brother and sister — the family being orphans — and is on the 
point of starvation, but seeing some wolves at their meal 
he goes up to them and, waiting till they have finished, 
picks up the morsels they have left. This he continues to 
do, until at last the animals take notice of their small 
dependent, and hearing his story are lost in amazement at 
the cruel heartlessness of human beings, and adopt Sheem 
on the spot. Now it happens that one day Owasso, the 
elder brother, comes in his canoe to the place, and hearing 
a sorrowful voice of wailing on the bank, thinks he re- 
cognises the deserted child, and landing goes to seek him. 
All of a sudden there leaps out from the bushes a creature 
half-wolf, half-boy, which flies from him along the shore. 
Owasso calls out to him, "Stay, brother!" But the wolf- 
boy goes leaping on his way, and crying as he goes, " Neesia, 
Neesia — a-wee ! You left me, going away in a canoe, and I 
am half-changed into a wolf — E-wee. Half-changed into a 
wolf — E-wee ! " and he howled between his words. And 
Owasso, stricken with brotherly love, cried after him, "Sheem ! 
Sheem ! Sheem ! " But the child fled on, alternately com- 
plaining and howling, and all the while kept changing more 
and more into a wolf. Then all of a sudden he reached a 
bank, and leaping on to it turned, and, looking back at his 
brother, cried in tones of most pathetic reproach, "lama 
wolf" — and vanished. On the other hand, it is beyond 



;S The Poets' Beasts. 

doubt that the image was one used, as a rule, to represent 
a fraudulent, double-dealing, heartless, and pitiless monster. 
Night, and Winter, and Cold put on the wolf's skin. It is 
then gloomy, sinister, malignant, diabolical. How terrible, 
for example, are those wolves of Odin, "Gari and Freki,"' 
who hunt down his enemies — the " Odin's hounds " of more 
modern folk-lore — the truly awful Feuris-wolf whom the 
gods tried to bind with chains but could not, but at last 
was fettered by most delicate links to the rock Amsvartner 
to await Ragnarok — those dread Finland jinns who live in 
the Wolf-Valley by the Lake of the Wolves — the red wolf 
that waylays the souls of bad men going to the nether 
world. 

But the wolf's name would not have been terrible in legends 
had it merely plundered the sheepfold. It is its crimes 
against mankind that have made it so gruesome a beast in 
folk-lore and so perilous in Nature ; and the poets do not fail 
to take note of the solitary pilgrims, mountaineers, goat- 
herds, and travellers that the wolves make their prey, nor of 
the horrid duties they share with birds of carrion on deserted 
fields of battle ; nor yet of greater crimes than all these 
— the murder of infants in their mothers' arms, and their 
violation of graves. In the following truly Thomsonian 
nonsense the poet catalogues the animal's iniquities : — 

" Cruel as death, and hungry as the grave! 
Burning for blood ! bony, and gaunt, and grim, 
Assembling wolves in raging troops desce: 
And, pouring o'er the country, bear along, 
Keen as the north wind sweeps the glossy snow. 
All is their prize. They fasten on the steed, 
Press him to the eartli, and pierce his mighty heart. 
Nor can the bull his awful front defend, 
Or shake the murdering savages away. 
Rapacious at the mother's throat they fly, 
And tear the screaming infant from her breast. 
The godlike face of man avails him nought. 
Even beauty, force divine ! at whose bright glance 



Bears and Wolves. 79 

The generous lion stands in softened gaze, 

Here bleeds, a hapless undistinguish'd prey. 

But if, appris'd of the severe attack, 

The country be shut up, lured by the scent, 

On churchyards drear (inhuman to relate !) 

The disappointed prowlers fall, and dig 

The shrouded body from the grave ; o'er which, 

M:x'd with foul shades and frightened ghosts, they howl." 

Each enormity in Thomson's catalogue finds abundant 
individual condemnation in the poets. Thus Leyden — 

" The prowling wolves that round the hamlet swarm 
Tear the young babe from the frail mother's arm ; 
Full gorged, the monster, in the desert bred, 
Howls, long and dreary, o'er the unburied dead." 

Chaucer's wolf, " with eyen red and of a man he ete ; " 
Dodd's gaunt wolf, that, " blood-happy, growling feeds on 
the quivering heart" of the belated Switzer : l Mackay's 
score of wolves " rushing like ghouls on a corse new- 
dead;" Montgomery's "gorged wolves, howling in con- 
vulsive slumber o'er their corses ; " and Webster's 

" But keep the wolf far hence, that's foe to men, 
For with his naiis he'll dig them up ag 

How this ghoul attribute of the wolf gained currency it 
is not easy to guess, for no work of natural history charges 
the wolf with doing that for which it is by nature unfitted 
to accomplish. A wolf might of course scratch up a corpse 
that was only lightly covered with soil, but it has not got the 
claws necessary for rifling any decent grave. 

The climax of horror is of course reached when, like 
Wordsworth's, the wolf is a baby-eater — 

" Vexed by the darkness, from the piny gulf, 
Ascending nearer, howls the famished wolf, 

1 The mountaineer, naturally, is more often the prey of poets' \\ 
than other classes of solitary-lived men, shepherds alone excepted. 



8o The Poets Beasts. 

While through the stillness scatters wild dismay, 
Her babe's small cry that leads him to his prey." 

But surely Thomson unjustly aggravates the wolf's obli- 
quities when he makes it loitering on sea-shores "there 
awaiting wrecks;" 1 as Shelley when he says — 

" They knew his cause their own, and swore 
Like wolves and serpents to their mutual wars 
Strange truce, with many a rite which earth and heaven abhors." 

But inasmuch as the poets sometimes need to use the 
wolf, their symbol of ruthless cruelty, as comparing favour- 
ably with men whom they consider worse than wolves, they 
have to absolve the animal from its supreme crime of 
cannibalism in order to have this one extra point in infamy 
to reproach human beings with. So men are wolves and 
"cannibals" in addition, though it is a fact that of all 
animals in the world the wolf is itself the most egregious 
cannibal. Most wild beasts will eat their own species on 
occasion, but the wolf habitually does so. No other 
explanation of this, of course, is needed than the hunger 
of the hour aggravating a natural bloodthirstiness ; but if 
it were, it would doubtless be found in the instinct that 
tells these brutes that they, of all wild beasts, cannot afford 
to have lagging comrades, and that it is better therefore 
for the commonwealth to eat them up as soon as they are 
crippled. In the same way savages on the war-path mas- 
sacre their sick (and sometimes eat them), for they cannot 
afford to drag about with them in time of war a burden of 
invalids. 

While, on the one hand, therefore, the wolf escapes a 
reproach that he is fairly liable to, man, on the other, is 
libelled by the unjust comparison — 

1 Philiips has "the starving wolves along the main sea prowl." 
Neither poet is referring to the Arctic wolf. 



Bears and Wolves. Si 

" Whoever saw the wolves that he can say, 
Like more inhuman us, so bent on prey, 
To rob their fellow wolves upon the way. 

The fiercest creatures we in nature find 

Respect their figure still in the same kind ; 

To others rough, to these they gentle be, 

And live from noise, from feuds, from factions free." 

And again — 

" But man, the wildest beast of prey, 
Wears friendship's semblance to betray ; 
His strength against the weak employs, 
And where he should protect, destroys." 

Not that I would be thought to defend our kind from these 
charges, for they may be well founded. I only complain 
of the wolf not being fished with the same net. 

But the chief feature of the wolf-symbol appears to me 
neglected — namely, the altogether disproportionate acces- 
sion of horror that surrounds wolves when in a pack, as 
compared with the solitary animal. Individually the animal 
is almost despicable, collectively it is terrific. Alone, the 
wolf is a highwayman, an individual bandit ; in company 
they are furies. A small dog, a little child, a burning stick, 
Campbell's " wolf-scaring faggot," a fluttering rag, a " bogy- 
trap" of any kind, will suffice to keep off a single wolf; 
but a squadron of cavalry will hardly stop the rush of a 
pack. The hunter hears a solitary howl and looks to his 
rifle ; but the wind brings down to him a chorus of voices, 
and he thinks only of escape. Men ride down single wolves 
in the snow and kill them with whips ; but the hunters 
become the hunted when a dozen wolves sweep down from 
the rocks — 

" The death-doomed man 

Felt such a chill run through his shivering frame, 

As the night-traveller on the Pyrenees, 

Lone and bewildered on his wintry way, 

F 



82 The Poets Beasts. 

When from the mountains round reverberates 
The hungry wolves' deep yell ; on every side 
Their fierce eyes gleaming as with meteor fires, 
The famished troops come round." — Southey. 

To its craftiness — the stealthy '"'evening wolf" of the 
Bible — the poets bear ready witness, but not probably 
since Hobbinole discoursed with Diggon Davie on the 
Kentish Downs has wolfish cunning received more amazing 
and delicious testimony. Diggon tells his companion how 
" a wicked wolfe, that with many a lambe had gutted his 
gulfe," taught itself how to bark (" learned a curre's call "), 
and then, dressing up in the fleece of one of its victims 
('• his counterfeit cote "), allowed itself to be penned up with 
the flock in the fold at night ; and how at midnight it would 
begin to howl, at which Roffin the shepherd would send out 
his big dog Lowder to scour the country, and how, while 
Lowder was away scouring the country, the wolf would 
' ; catchen his prey, a lambe, or a kid, or a weanall wast. 1 
and with that to the wood would spce.ie him fast." But 
this was not the worst — 

" For it was a perilous beast above all, 
And eke had he cond the shepheard's call, 
And oft in the night came to the sheep-cote 
called Lowder, with a hollow throte, 
it the olde mnn selfe had beene ; 
The dogge his maister's voice did it weene, 
Yet half in doubt he opened the dore 
And ranne out as he was wont of yore. 
No sooner was out, but swifter than thou:: 
by the hyde the wolfe Lowder c 
I had not Roffy rer.ne to the 
Lowder had been slaine thilke same even." 

In metaphor the wolf does not fail to meet with its desc 
or what are supposed to be such. Rapine, Lust, Cru. 
Treacher)' are all wolves. Spenser sees Envy " riding on a 

1 Voun^linj. - N 



Bears and Wolves. 8$ 

ravenous wolf." Crime (in Mackay) has a " wolfish grin ; " 
Plague (in Shelley) is "a winged wolf;" Pride and Avarice 
(in Cowper) "make man a wolf to man;" Bigotry (in 
Watts) is " half a murdering wolf ; " and again, in Shelley — 

" Wolfish Change, like winter, howls to strip 
The foliage in which Fame, the eagle, built 
Her aerie, while Dominion whelped below." 

Dryden calls the Presbyterians, and Milton the Papists, 
" hireling wolves," and mischievous teachers " grievous 
wolves " — 

" Help us to save free conscience from the paw 
Of hireling wolves whose gospel is their maw." 

Pomfret bewolfs the soldiers of Kirke, Southey those who 
fought against Joan of Arc, Byron the enemies of Greece, 
and Scotch Reviewers, and Gay the Irish. Holy 'Writ, 
no doubt, gives the poets their inspiration for many of 
their expressions — " ravening," " in sheep's clothing," and so 
forth ; and the animal is used throughout the Scriptures as 
the symbol of a cunning blood-thirstiness, from princes 
of Moab to a false prophet. As an emblem of ferocity 
it was given to Benjamin, whose standard bore the wolf 
couched in a field of green corn. 

Poetical proverbs about the wolf are numberless : as a 
specimen the following — "The wolf knows what the ill 
beast thinks " — " As wolves love a flock, these love the weak " 
— " A bad dog never sees the wolf" — " The death of a young 
wolf doth never come too soon " — " The wolf must die in his 
own skin " — " Who hates a wolf for his master needs a dog 
for his man " — " Wolves give a good account of sheep, left 
to their vigilance to keep" — "The wolf unseen and trem- 
bling lies, when the hoarse roar proclaims the lion near " — 
" Hungry wolves, though greedy of their prey, stop when 
they find a lion in their way." 

The Assyrian was not more fierce in his attack upon 



84 



The Poets Beasts. 



doomed Jerusalem ; Orcas "his wolfish mountains rounding" 
not more fearful; Satan "lighting on his feet" in Eden 
not more bold-stealth)*, than the wolf that "leaps with ease 
into the fold." Even Rome's founder — so bitter is the poets' 
hostility to " the howling nurse of plundering Romulus " — 
is followed into after-life by reflections upon his wet-nurse. 

Byron, however, makes, in a single stanza, a large measure 
of amends — 

"And thou, the thunder-stricken nurse of Rome ! 
She-wolf ! whose brazen-imaged dugs impart 
The milk of conquest yet within the dome 
Where, as a monument of antique art, 
Thou standest : — Mother of the mighty heart, 
Which the great founder suck : d from thy wild teat, 
Scorch'd by the Roman Jove's ethereal dart, 
And thy limbs black'd with lightning — dost thou yet 
Guard thine immortal cubs, nor thy fond charge forget ? " 




IV. 



SOME BEASTS OF REPROACH. 



Poets use wild beasts chiefly as terms of reproach. They 
seem to see no moral beauty, and recognise little good, in 
them. Being wild beasts, they are bestial, and being bestial, 
they are types of corresponding deformities in human nature. 
For poets do not, as a class, seem to have the generosity 
that belongs to the true lover of Nature, to admire the wild- 
beastiness of wild beasts, and to contemplate them in the 
orderly scheme of creation, outside the hackneyed phases 
of popular ignorance, or beyond the sphere of man's own 
common needs. 

Servile animals they overload with flattery. The inde- 
pendent wild beast they traduce. Sheep are virtuous 
Christians : tigers are the infamous heathen. 

A certain number of animals contemplated by the poets 
as being harmless — the camel, giraffe, elephant, hippopo- 
tamus, kangaroo, opossum, beaver, and bison — are used, of 
course, as similes of patience, stateliness, sagacity, bulk, 
agility, timidity, vigilance, and strength respectively — and 
among the British fauna the deer, hare, rabbit, squirrel, and 
dormouse are symbols of admirable docility, amiable weak- 
ness, cheerfulness, and dozy contentment. Yet even each 
of these receives, in turn, more or less cynical treatment at 
times, while all of them are mentioned so casually, or con- 
templated from a standpoint of such lofty condescension, 



S6 The Pods Beasts. 

that the poets' sentiment towards them is more than 

one of acidulated toleration. 

Sheep, cattle, deer, and dogs, the domesticated animals 
in fact, are favourites of the poets. For very few poets view 
Nature except in its relations with man. It is the chief 
charge against the wolf that it eats the mutton intended for 
human beings: and if an owl frightens Chaw-bacon, il 
therefore, an obscene and death-boding fowl. But sheep 
and cows, horses and dogs and deer, being servile anit. 
are flattered with the same exaggerated attentions as ■ 
meek birds of the dove-cot " that fill pigeon-pies, and the 
bees that " yield their honey'd stores " for the poet's break- 
fast. Yet even with these, their inordinate favourites, the 
poets sometimes fall out. They are never tired of remind- 
ing sheep that they are sill}-, abusing the bull for using his 
horns against men, libelling dogs when of low degree, and 
horses that are "jades." So that neither the "harmk 
animals nor the " domesticated " meet with complete 
urbanity. 

But outside these two classes stand nearly all the Wild- 
Beast world, and to them, the bravest and most beautiful 
of Nature's ministers, the poets are all uncharitableness. 
The lion is the one exception, but then the lion of poem- 
is a magnificent creation of the poets, and not the creature 
of Nature at all. For the rest, the lords of the forest and 
plain, the peerage of jungle-duchies and desert-earldoms, 
the marquisates of river-side and canon — the tiger and 
leopard, panther, puma and jaguar, ounce, ocelot and Ij 
cheetah, bear, wolf, rhinoceros — there is nothing but re- 
proach. And for what reason ? Only the most egotistical 
and whimsical Those that are not afraid of man are, on 
that account, monsters of ferocity, and when they despoil 
man's property, they are called utterly abominable : while 
the rhinoceros, grand old recluse of reedy hermitages, is 
abused for having a horn on the tip of his nose, just as the 



Some Beasts of Reproach. cS 7 

hedgehog and porcupine are calumniated for having quills 
on their backs. 

The monkeys, again, another large and admirable feature 
of wild nature, are pelted with unmitigated scorn because 
they seem to resemble man, and can be taught to burlesque 
him, as if the poets really believed that all the monkeys of 
the world live in cages or on barrel-organs. Or take 
another class, the foxes and jackals, delightful parables 
both of them, or the hyaena, one of the gloomiest touches 
in Nature, and we find it is the same, and that the poets 
are similarly deficient in sympathy and tenderness. Now, 
for myself, keeping no poultry-yard, I like young foxes just 
as much as I do chickens or ducklings ; and having no 
friends buried in Syria or Abyssinia, I can view the hyaena 
apart from corpses. For the poets, of course, it will be 
argued that they project themselves into the affections of 
others, and feel for the chickens of neighbours and the 
graves of Ethiopians as keenly as if they were their own. 

I had once in India a favourite dog carried off by a 
leopard ; yet I do not hate leopards on that account. I 
also kept a pet leopard once, and I liked it just as much as 
I did the terrier which its relatives previously consumed. 
The leopard did quite right to eat my dog, even though it 
might have known it would provoke me to ill-nature by 
doing so ; and though I should have been glad at the time 
to see that particular one murdered, I certainly bore no 
grudge against all the leopards of the world, much less 
against all their glorious congeners as well. So that the 
poets, even after they have presumably projected their sym- 
pathies into everybody's hen-roost and thus absorbed the 
concentrated sentiments of all the poultry-fanciers of the 
world, are still, I take it, not justified in abusive generalities 
about foxes. That these pretty beasts eat chickens is solely 
our own fault, for we have deprived them of every other 
source of food. But the great majority of foxes in the world 



83 Poets 

never even saw a chicken or heard of one, while every 
chickenivorous or not, is a beautiful and useful animal. 

It is ferocious. But of this the poets take no heed. 
For the ferocity of the fox is not directed against the person 
of man, just as the weasel, quite as ferocious as the tiger, 
ti:i -5 :t; ::-:':. :r. :r.:s ;:::t. :t:;_:t .: : f. .; ; _~s :...—.- 
ti-.tr. 

The poets, then, judge the great beast-world from a 
what narrow and selfish point of view, and seem to award 
their praise or blame in proportion to the direct utiii". 
man of the animal under notice. To make a wild- w i 
:r.e:e:':re. :':.-.: i'r.-.-'.i it :: ::.t r.i-j-.r' :_5:t _■-•;. \-tis: :r. 
it ought to contribute either wool or butchers' meat to the 
needs of human beings, and there ought not to be a four- 
legged thing afoot with more ferocity in it than a be 
Tr.tv -.-'. i ...i : _t: : :: ~e;r : ::-A -;--:■". : v r ; . i-.i rhir.:- 
ceroses, before going abroad, to unscrew their horns. 
'•V: '.•••■:: :'-. : _'. i : t f.tt" y ;r.i ;:.y •■':::. : : 1 :v : r. :'-.::.: :. .- 
:: : :"..r? ; . 

A~:-._- :;•• 5'-::^' It*;:? ::' r-.t_-::.:". - :• :: -r.urr.: 
ri'.ti =-:-.r. :i:= :;:-:::. : . :':: ts : t ;i '•::.".. :.-. : ::.: 0:r.tr-. 
::' :: .rn. ::: ^ :.•-;'.;•■ -it: :';: :'-.; 5i:;.t ; _:; : =r. Thus. ;:..- 
::-:;::; ; ; :..- :: ::' ::i:r.'.t = = :...:... :ry. ::' 1 : -.■•;>;- : issiir.. 
of silly conceited buffoons, of despicable men generally — 

" She to the window rans where she had spied 
Her much-esteemed dear friend, the moni: i 

V." •;. ■': r;. :::. .t- i; ~ i: y i -.; ; .. ; 

7:.i --::_■ :'-.:-.::r.:.j-::.--.t:;:.i:- ': :::t- '. 
A- : -i:e .-.•';._? f.-.t •.e--t: : r:\ i: Lii: ■ 
>1 : - t- :: - :-: . = ~ .:. - .:- ;:-.--. 

'.'. -:.:_• . i" :: - 7 -f. ■-"■;:-. : 

m . : ;;.:. :.-.-. -.- ■: :.-; - ■..-. -.-.- ■ 

A".::''.:!-;. •■•■':=: '■'■;•;; r.::.v : :'.; ;-•..;; iivs ::::.; :;s-, 
1 Rochester. 



Some Beasts of Reproach. 89 

is the emblem of all that is solemnly stupid, perverse, 
ignobly meek — 

" Half witty and half mad, and scarce half brave, 
Half honest (which is very much a knave) ; 
Made up of all the<e halves, thou canst not pass 
For anything whatever but an ass. " 

The heavy mule — "a thing of jadish tricks" — "who, if 
they've not their will to keep their own pace, stand stock- 
still " — provides the poets with as easy a nickname as its 
relative the ass — 

" Some neither can for wits nor critics pass, 
As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass " {Pope) ; 

and the worst kind of all is " that reasoning mule " — a man. 
But I have myself only a very qualified sympathy with the 
mule, which is, after all, not a natural animal, but an 
artificial. Man made mules, and may abuse his own pro- 
ductions if he chooses. I have the utmost admiration for 
the mule's intelligence — 

" Shunning the loose stone on the precipice, 
Snorting suspicious — while with sight, smell, touch, 
Trying, detecting, where the surface smiled ; 
And with deliberate courage, sliding down, 
Where, in his sledge, the Laplander had turned 
With looks aghast" — 

and for the intrepid self-reliance (to which I have myself 
been indebted for personal safety) which Rogers celebrates 
in verse ; and consider its capacity for finding water one 
of the most conspicuous marvels of all marvellous Nature. 
But I do not, all the same, count the mule as a regular 
animal. 

Bears are types of either monstrous imbecility or rugged 
brutality. In freedom, they are the terror of the wood ; in 
captivity, the jest of every clown ; in death, pomatum. Un- 



go Beasts. 

couth men with unkempt manners are, therefore, be 
Misshapen and abortive plans are Bruin's cubs. 

The cruel fair are panthers. Tif standards of 

cruelty by which to measure the greater enormities of man. 
As in Pomfret — 

rse, for 'tis beyond dispute, 
N : nends ;o cruel as a reasoning brute." 

hat tygre or what other salvage wight 
Is so exceeding furious and fell, 

yog when it hath armed itselfe with might? 

N r r.: c.:r.-;: :.-.-: r. :'. ::. '. t v .\. rt-= :. ~t'."..' - 

And so, too. the wolf. " Rapacious, rough, and bold 
Moore's description, and all the poets use it as the beast- 
symbol of pitiless ferocity among men, distributing the 
epithet impartially among all classes — u For man to man is 
fiercer than the woif, more cruel than the tiger" — Churches 
ifferent creeds, politicians of different parties, cruel 
wickedness of all kinds. 

The hyaena " that feeds on women's flesh " is a pet 
abhorrence — 

>ones out of her hidden cave she cald 
An hideous beast of horrible aspect, 
That could the stoutest corage have appald : 

.reus, mishapt, and ail his backe was spect 
With thousand spots of colours queint e'. . . 
Thereto so swifte that it all beasts did pas ; 

lid living eie detect ; 
But likest it to an hyaena 
That feeds on women's flesh, as ot'ers feede on g 

Among this animal's epithets are — "dire," " fell," " fellest 
of the fell " (Thomson), and they are not from a poetical 
standpoint altogether misapplied, for the hyaena may veri- 
tably be called the ghoul among the beasts. Its alternating 
cowardice and fierceness, its shadow)' mist-of-evening colour, 
its laughter, broken by sobs and groans, are all horribly 



Some Beasts of Reproach. 91 

ghostly. And as if to keep up this imposture of being 
phantom-beasts, they move more stealthily and silently 
than even the wolf itself, and are,' in fact, perpetually mis- 
taken by those who see them (especially on nights when 
clouds are driving across the moon) for shadows on the 
ground. They can be heard breathing before they can be 
seen, and have been observed sniffing at a sleeping watch- 
dog. 

It is not, therefore, surprising that the poets should con- 
sider hyaenas fair subjects for imaginative writing. So we 
find it meeting " the vulture and the snake, in horrid truce 
to eat the dead " — revelling in scenes of carnage from which 
"the very vultures turn away, " — "smiling" over a "rank 
corse" (Leyden) — "over his loathed meal, laughing in 
agony, raving " (Shelley) — " shedding tears and biting the 
while she's howling" (Barry Cornwall) — "tearing and 
grinning, howling, screeching, swearing, and with hyaena- 
laughter died despairing " (Byron). But, inasmuch as it is 
essential for complete horror that the hyaena shall be the 
direct foe of man, it is described as "bursting" upon man, 
and man as " flying the hyaena's famished howl." 

" And oh ! to see the unburied heaps 
On which the lonely moonlight sleeps ; 
The very vultures turn away. 
And sicken at so foul a prey ! 
Only the fiercer hyama stalks 
Throughout the city's desolate walks 
At midnight, and his carnage plies. 
Woe to the half-dead wretch who meets 
The glaring of those large blue eyes 
Amid the darkness of the streets." — Moore. 

In metaphor the hyaena is unexpectedly infrequent. 
But women in general are called hyaenas. In Otway — 

"Tis thus the false hyaena makes her moan 
T draw the pitying traveller to her den. 
Your sex are so ! " 



92 The Poets' Beasts. 

So, in particular, are the Delilas. Samson cries — 

M Out, out. hyasna ; these are thy wc i 

I arts of every woman ..ee. ? ' 

Cruel foemen, the priests of the Inquisition, and unnatural 
mothers are hyaenas, and so are bigotry, tyranny, and lust — 

" And tyranny, I : ung, 

Dreading the sound, shall farrow in affright, 
And drop, still-born, her sangui: Mackay. 

That the jackal is " the lion's provider " is one of those 
antique articles of belief which, in the light of modern 
observation and knowledge, it is very difficult to discredit — 

" Be you the lion to devour the prey : 
I am your jackal to provide for y 
There will be a bone for me to pick.'" — Dr 

That the jackal for some mysterious reason very frequently 
accompanies the tiger is beyond all doubt ; and the lion is 
(in India) a neighbour of the tiger. Is there any reason, 
then, for supposing that the jackal will not do as much ft r 
the one as for the other? The poets certainly do not think 
so ; among others. Byron — 

" Ye jackals ! gnaw the bones the lion le.v. 
But not even these till he pern. 

And again — 

" So lions o'er the jackal s 
The jackal points, he fells the prey. 
Then on the vu"._ 
To gorge the relics of sue: 

ey has — 

" The jackal of Ambition's lion-rage.' 1 

And Dryden — 

" Meantime the Belgians tack upon our rear, 
And raking chase-guns thro' our sterns they sen 
Close by, their fire-ships like jackals appear, 
Who on their lions for the prey at 



Sovic Beasts of Reproach. 93 

As befits such a mean sycophant as they suppose it to 
be, " the thin jackal's " turn comes last at the feast. In 
Byron — 

" So when the lion quits his fell repast, 

Next prowls the wolf, the filthy jackal last : 

Flesh, limbs, and blood, the former make their own, 

The last, poor brute, securely gnaws the bone." 

Its voice chiefly attracts the poets. Crime has a "jackal- 
cry." Leyden calls it a " dismal shriek ; " but Heber 
(writing in Bengal) says — 

" The jackal's cry 
Resounds like sylvan revelry ; " 

and of the two Heber is certainly more correct. Faber's 
" like plaining infants wearied the still air " is pure fancy ; 
while Byron again (writing from Greece, a jackal country) 
describes it as 

" A mixed and mournful sound, 
Like crying babe and beaten hound ; " 

A stubborn, ugly, dirty, gluttonous, discontented, quarrel- 
some swine is the poet's pig. Says Burns — 

" In seventeen hundred forty-nine, 
Satan took stuff to make a swine 

And cuist it in a corner ; 
But wilily he changed his plan, 
And shaped it something like a man, 

And ca'd it Andrew Turner." 

So we may guess what Andrew Turner was like. And 
all men that are either stubborn, ugly, dirty, gluttonous, 
discontented, or quarrelsome, are called swine. It is the 
"filthy," "guzzling," "whining," "wallowing," "grumbling" 
hog; it lives in an "impure" and "stinking" "sty;" it 
eats " greasy draff." Thomson gives an unlovely sketch 
of the porker on its way to market — 

" Even so through Brentford town, a town of mud, 
An herd of bristly swine is prick'd along ; 



94 The Poets Beasts. 

The filthy beasts, that never chew the cud, 

Stiil grunt, and squeak, and sing their troublous song. 
And oft they plunge themselves the mire among ; 

But aye the ruthless driver goads them on, 
And aye of barking dogs the bitter throng 

Makes them renew their unmelodious moan ; 

Nor ever find they rest from their unresting fone." 

Their voice, appearance, gait, food, habit of wallowing, 
and sleeping, all suggest comparisons with other " vi'.e 
noises," other " hog-snouted features," or " pigs' small 
eyes ; " other " bestial indolences," other " miry wsr 

Fat men are compared with " the fattest hogs in Epicurus' 
sty," and crowds with "rampant raging herds of swine;" 
gormandisers are fit only to "grunt with glutton swine," and 
indolent folk, as in Parnell — 

" Very silent and sedate, 
Ever long and ever late, 
Full of meats and full of wine, 
Take their temper from the swine." 

Yet as a feature of rural woodland life, where it is a 
cleanly, cheerful, active animal (as it always is in a natural 
state), the porker could not be overlooked. So we meet in 
Clare with — 

" The grunting noise of rambling hogs 
Where pattering acorns oddly drop, 
And noisy bark of shepherd dogs 
The restless routs of sheep to stop." 

In Gay we see them revelling " 'mid a feast of acorns ;" in 
Montgomery grubbing " for dainty earth-nuts and nutritious 
roots;" in Johnson "returning home fat with mast." 

A common object of the country is Joanna Baillie's 
" grumbling sow that in the furrow feeds," nor far off her 
is Drayton's hog — 

"And in the furrow bye where Ceres is much spilled, 
Th' unwieldy larding hog his maw there having filled, 
Lies wallowing in the mire, thence able scarce to rise." 



Some Beasts of Reproach. 95 

Nor unfamiliar is the mud-mashed corner, by the farm- 
yard gate, where Gay's " batt'ning hogs roll in the sinking 
mire," — for your " pig is a philosopher, who knows no pre- 
judice." 

But Blomfield is emphatically the poet of the pig, and 
some of his vignettes are delightful. Thus the indolent pig 
being tickled by geese — 

" As when by turns the strolling swine engage 
The utmost efforts of the gander's rage, 
Whose nibbling warfare on the grunter's side 
Is welcome pleasure to his bristly hide ; 
Gently he sleeps, or stretched at ease along, 
Enjoys the insults of the gabbling throng 
That march exulting round his fallen head." 

Or this other of the frequently occurring panic among 
piglings— 

"No more the swains with scatter'd grain supply 
The restless wandering inmates of the sty ; 
From oak to oak they run with eager haste ; 
And wrangling share the first delicious taste 
Of fallen acorns ; 

The trudging sow leads forth her numerous young, 
Playful, white and clean, the briars among ; 
Till briars and thorns increasing fence them around. 

With bristles raised the sudden noise they hear, 
And ludicrously wild, and wing'd with fear, 
The herd decamp with more than swinish speed, 
And snorting dash thro' sedge, and rush, and reed ; 
Through tangling thickets headlong on they go, 
Then stop and listen for the fancied foe, 
The hindmost still the grunting panic spreads" 

Clare, too, was a pig-observer, and here is an excellent 
touch of the evening farmyard — 

" Hogs with grumbling deafening noise 
Bother round the server boys, 
And far and near the motley group 
Anxious claim them suppering up : 



c6 The Poets Beasts. 

From the rest, a blest release, 
Gabbling home, the quarrelling geese 
Seek their warm straw-littered shed, 
And waddling, prate themselves to 1 

This frequent connection of pigs and geese is characteristic 
of the best observers of country life. I have noticed it 
already in Drayton, Leyden, and Blomfield, and Ciare 
again has — 

;< In autumn time he often stood to mark 
What tumults 'tween the hogs and geese arose, 
Down the corn-littered street" 

So that Miss Frances Power Cobbe's exquisite story of the 
e that used to make the pigs run the gauntlet of the 
flock every evening, and grab their fat skins and tweak 
them as they passed, is a real incident of this funny feud. 

But I have read Charles Lamb too well to be unamiable 
to the pig, for whom a far better defence can be made 
than Southey's humorous odes. For in its natural state it 
is cleanly both in food and person, of remarkable intelli- 
gence, activity, and courage. They are perpetually bathing, 
they eat only fresh vegetable food, are as difficult of 
approach as wild geese, and as nimble in escape as goats ; 
while for downright pluck, there is not a single animal in 
all the round world — the wolverine, perhaps, excepted — that 
can compare with it At any rate, it is the only living 
beast that will wilfully challenge the tiger to combat. Nor 
is the tiger always the victor. 

In a domesticated state, except on the best mai 
farms, appearances are very much against hogs. But the 
young pig, the porkerling, is a very queer and engaging 
little person. Its inquisitiveness, resulting, as a rule, in 
tumultuous panic, its utterances, so full of interrogations- 
and astonishments, its manner of sidelong frisking and 
urcxpected cavorts, are all immensely diverting. Nor are 
adult swine without their humour and sentiments. Farm 



Some Beasts of Reproach. 97 

hands sometimes grow curiously attached to their grunting 
charges — 

" But now, alas ! these ears shall hear no more 
The whining swine surround the dairy door; 
No more her cave shall fill the hollow tray, 
To fat the guzzling hogs with floods of whey. 
Lament, ye swine ! in grumbling spend your grief, 
For you, like me, have lost your sole relief." — Gay. 

And need I refer to the national affection that exists 
between the Irish peasantry and their pigs ? Among the 
poets who refer to this Hiberian taste is Wilson — 

" Here streams of smoke the entering stranger greet; 
Here man and beast with equal honours meet ; 
The cow loud bawling fills the spattered door, 
The sow and pigs grunt social round the floor ; 
Dogs, cats, and ducks, in mingling groups appear, 
And all that filth can boast of, riots here." 

In the matter of those bedevilled hogs of Gadara, and 
the prodigal son, with other references to them in Holy 
Writ, the pig arrives at some adventitious consequence. 
Further dignity, too, attaches to him from the ceremonious 
consumption at Yule-tide of his head, "crested with bays 
and rosemary," and of the " brawne of the tusked swine " 
that Chaucer respected so sincerely. Indeed, its complete 
edibility (for which it has been called " a perfect gentle- 
man, eatable from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail ") 
set Islam a problem which, to this day, the Moulvies have 
not solved. But it must be confessed that the poets are 
very chary of compliments to swine, the sagacious truffle- 
hunting animals "that grubbed the turf and taught man 
where to look for dainty earth-nuts and nutritious roots," 
and that, next to their " dirtiness," they seem to recognise 
most keenly their absurdity. That they are credited with 
seeing the wind gives them a joke against the pig, and the 
ring in its nose, the curl in its tail, and the absence of wool 

G 



98 The Poets Beasts. 

on its back, are all considered as fair subjects for ridicule 
as the soaped pig hunted at the fair — 

" Painful regale 
To hunt the pig with slippery t. 

says Green ; and Clare — 

" And monstrous fun it makes to hunt the pig, 
As soaped and larded through the crowd he flies ; 
Thus turn'd adrift he plays them many a rig, 
A pig for catching is a wondrous prize, 
And every lout to do his utmost tries ; 
Some snap the ear, and some the curly tail, 
But stili his slippery hide all hold denies." 

Now the hog, if regarded aright, is by no means a con- 
temptible creature. It is a purely modern fancy (and one 
that the poets are, to a very great extent, responsible for) 
that swine are things to laugh ill-naturedly at For, as a 
matter of fact, the vast majority of contemporary mankind, 
and all antiquity, invest the hog with a very strongly marked 
intelligence and strength of character. Whatever else it 
may be, they never call it ridiculous. 

In one aspect, the pig is positively terrific. The Vedic 
pig is a thunderbolt, red, 1 bristling, terrible. In the solar 
myth the deities and powers of the elements frequently 
assume the swine form when in troublous, threatening 
moods, and the sun himself when malignant is a hog. It 
is then, in fact, a demoniacal symbol. At other times it is 
simply potent without malignity, as when Freya's chariot, 
in Scandinavian myth, is drawn by a hog with a luminous 
head, or when the Hindoo Indra appears to the earth in 
his boar avatar, or Vishnu is " the tusked one." 

1 Chaucer's pigs by the way, are red, " rede as the bristles of a sowe's 
eres ; " and again, " his beard as any sowes or fox was rede." So too 
in all ballads the " rede " swine. 



Some Beasts of Reproach. 99 

At other times, again, it is the placid emblem of fatness, 
an honourable obesity. For it is only in modern civilisa- 
tion that fatness has been laughed at. In more than half 
the world it commands respect, for beyond the energetic 
limits of Europe, physical exercise after manhood is con- 
sidered one of the disagreeable accidents of poverty, the 
fate of the necessitous, just as leanness of limb is the livery 
of the underfed. And the Oriental, therefore, receiving as 
he does the deference of his neighbours on account of the 
portliness of his person, prefers to move about in the 
adipose discomfort of a well-to-do appearance rather than 
to be seen in the pauper's uniform of bones. 

I do not go so far as to say that I would join the super- 
stitious in their vigils in pig-styes on Christmas eve — at 
least not with becoming alacrity — or would join in the train 
of suitors for the wealthy pig- faced lady, or " hog- faced 
gentlewoman," as the chap-book of the period styles her. 
But, on the other hand, I have no propensity to faint, as that 
stout marshal of France used to do at the sight of one, 
nor to object to being taxed, as the country folk thereabouts 
do, with being born at Hogg's Norton. I do not share 
Isaiah's prodigious objections to pork. 

Indeed, between an excessive enthusiasm .and a bigoted 
detestation there is the more becoming medium of sobriety, 
and I am content, therefore, to commit myself no further 
than to say I had rather hear the cheery horn of the swine- 
herd calling his charges to their banquet under the Cam- 
panian oaks, than the last squeals of the hog on the altars 
of Bacchus. 

The poets, therefore, are not romping on such safe 
grounds as they think when they frolic over the fatness of 
swine. Nor should they have forgotten to allow pig-legends 
to temper their severity. It is only by giving all evidence 
its due weight that judges arrive at the cold neutrality of 
impartiality. Now, was not the hog sacred to Thor, and is 



ioo The Poets 1 Beasts. 

it not under the very special protection of St. Anthony. 1 
the friend of all animals and protector of weddings? Did 
they never hear that pork gives the eater acuteness of ear 
and intelligence? That a | \ les have strange occult 

influences when the proper arrangements are made for 
working a charm ? That Rome, " the namele- nee 

had the hog, " the nameless beast," for its badge and cog- 
nisance ? That " please the pigs," now a contemptuous 
phrase, really means ' ; please the Holy Virgin," or i 
mean "please the girls"?- To laugh at "a hog in 
armour" is a poor jest enough even for those who think 
" hog " means a pig. and wherein lay the joke of a China- 
man's queue — a lank dependent plait of hair four feet in 
length — being called a " pig-tail " I never could understand. 
The pig's tail, by the way. provides the poets with as much fun 
as it does, when soaped, the clowns who try to catch hold of 
it, and there is a proverb to the effect that it is beyonc 

city of human ingenuity to convert the caudal appen- 
dage of a swine into an instrument of sibilation. But 
is not the case, as in the city of Chicago I myself saw a 
tie made out of a pig's tail, and an excellent one. not 
one that would merely on occasion emit an exiguous squeak, 
but arousing whistle that would fetch every hansom, wil 
a radius of half a mile, to your door. 

That the tail should curl amuses the poets ; but I 
not sure that such flippancy is not blameworthy. They co 
not even care whether it curis to the right or I Yd 

it depended once upon the direction of the twist whether 
the hog was acceptable in sacrifice or not. All deities of 
taste abhorred the twist-sinister. 

In short, I cannot .inking that there has been 

1 " St. Anthony is universally known for the patron of hi. 
a pig for hi? page in all pictures." — Fk 

2 Pigeon maiden (Danish), hog youth of both sexes (Gaelic). Sic . 



Some Beasts of Reproach. 101 

much mutual misunderstanding between the poets and their 
pigs. Indeed, if only on the ground of the pig's eatable- 
ness throughout, I should have expected some occasional 
scintillations of gratitude from men and women with such 
far-reaching and subtle sympathies as poets claim. 

For there is no finicking reservation of himself about the 
pig : he keeps back nothing, excepts no part of his person 
from the general consumption. He puts himself up to be 
eaten " without reserve," generously closing the door against 
possibilities of subsequent misunderstanding. He goes the 
whole hog with himself. The inventory of his effects is 
complete, and without any fraudulent withholding of items ; 
he puts himself into your hands bag and baggage. When 
you have finished eating him, there is no gleaning after you — 

'• I: would be well, my friend, if you and I 
Had, like that pig, attained the perfec. 
Made reachable by nature." — Southey. 

The hog, then, is unanimous, and from this fact have 
risen two singular phenomena so opposed in character that 
it is a wonder they should have sprung from the same 
source. The first is the Moslems' consumption of the entire 
animal ; the second, the Jews' entire abstinence from it. 

Mahomet, as is well known, enjoined upon all the Faithful 
that they should not eat pork ; for, said he — 

"There is a part in every swine, 
N i friend or follower of mine 
May taste, whate'er his inclination, 
On pain of excommunication." — 

But the prophet did not actually specify the sinful part, 
but left the point at large, to the great perplexity of Islam, 
and no little discontent, inasmuch as 

" For one piece they thought it hard 
From the whole hos: to be debarred." 



102 The Poets' Beasts. 

The Moulvies, therefore, met in consultation to settle 
what joint Mahomet had in mind. And Cowper goes on — 

" Much controversy straight aro?e : 
These chose the back, the belly those, 
By some 'tis confidently said 
He meant not to forbid the head ; 
While others at that doctrine rail, 
And piously prefer the tail. 
Thus, conscience freed from every clog, 
Mahomedans eat up the hog."' 

There was no intermediate position tenable, for so 
numerous and bigoted were the admirers of the several 
good points of a cooked animal that it was impossible to find 
any one bit of the animal that somebody did not swear was 
the very best morsel in him. Yet see to what contrary ends 
the same symmetry of perfection worked with regard to the 
Jews. Not only did they not eat swine, but, recognising 
the solidarity and homogeneity of the animal, the very 
strictest Jews refused even to admit that such an animal 
existed ! 

They would not rest even at the half-w. don of 

Accadian nomenclature, and fetch a compass about it by 
calling it " the one that wears a ring in his nose," or M it 
with a tail like a ringlet," or "the bristly thing that grunts." 
They decreed at once its complete banishment into the 
limbo of nameless nothings. 

So they spoke of it as "the other thing," the "you know 
what 1 mean." the " what do you call 'ems," the u abomina- 
tion." They were afraid even to utter the insidious word 
"pork." To talk of ''crackling" was. they knew well, the 
first step to eating it. So they cut the name out of their 
language. But what a pitiful illustration of moral weakness ! 
Not to be able to look a pig in the face without incon- 
tinently debauching on brawn ! 

But this weakness is in my opinion aggravated by the 



Some Beasts of Reproach. 103 

suspicion that these same strict Jews, who would not for the 
world think of mentioning the name of the pig, used, as a 
matter of fact, to have it served surreptitiously. Or how is 
it that we find pigs so numerous in the Judaea of Holy 
"Writ ? Were they all Gentiles' pigs ? 

Not that my suspicion is altogether pure assumption. For 
— apart from the fact that we never find preachers denounc- 
ing practices that do not exist — history tells us that the 
Egyptians tried very hard indeed to keep from pork, but 
could not do it. They formally anathematised it as " im- 
pure ; " but formally also they ate it, affecting, by the vast 
ceremony with which they consumed their bacon, that they 
were performing a religious rite. They were never tired of 
saying that it was abominable and vowing it to Tycho, the 
spirit of evil, but with all this fuss of terrible abnegation, 
they solemnly gave themselves up twice a year with a pro- 
fusion of ceremonial and dumb-crambo to eating pigs. And 
mark the sagacity of the ancient Egyptians, those " serpents 
of old Nile." On the two authorised pork-days they "sacri- 
ficed " (so they pleasantly termed it) immense numbers of 
hogs to their equivalent for Bacchus. But did they destroy 
them by fire before his shrine ? waste the precious carcase 
by useless incineration ? Not a bit of it. They gave the 
bodies to the swineherds. And why ? Why f To be made 
into bacon, of course. 

The swineherds lived on the preserved flesh of their 
charges, and understood these little matters of smoking and 
curing. Nor is it without significance that the Egyptians 
were very careful as to the age and condition of the pigs 
they thus " sacrificed," and that they killed their pigs just 
as farmers do nowadays, twice in the year. If any one, 
therefore, would try to convince me that the jolly old 
Egyptians did not have bacon and ham, brawn, tripe and 
sausages, chine and pettitoes all the year round, I should be 
as deaf as a wilderness of adders. Nor do I believe that 



104 The Poets Beasts. 

the Jews were ever any stricter than they are now ; and I 
think he would be a foolhardy man who should walk 
past a Hebrew pickpocket with a rasher of bacon sticking 
obviously out of his coat-tails. 

It is not likely that any one, with eyes to see and ears 
to hear, could write a paragraph descriptive of a summer 
evening without mentioning the bat. So the regular occur- 
rence of the bat-feature in Clare, Hurdis, Blomfield, 
Wilson, Garth, Grahame, Wordsworth, Collins, Gay, Shelley, 
and all the others who have sung of twilight, was only to be 
expected. But it is curious that none should have made 
remark of the fiitter-mouse's amazing eyesight, admired its 
unrivalled dexterity on the wing, or wondered at its voice 
— those needle-points of sound, which are too keen and 
quick for many ears to catch. 

Recent investigations by railway companies have shown 
what a dangerous proportion of humanity is wholly or 
partially colour-blind, and similar inquiries would prove 
that a very large number of persons are unconscious of 
their being partially deaf. A test case is the bat's acute 
voice. So Tennyson, requiring a simile, says " our voices 
were thinner and fainter than any fiitter-mouse shriek." I 
have myself known four persons out of a company of six 
unable to catch the sounds uttered by bats when hawking 
overhead. Coleridge, for instance, says " the bat wheels 
silent by," as if it was the regular thing for bats to be silent, 
whereas the fact is, that it is very unusual for bats to be 
silent when wheeling after insects. So the chances are 
that Coleridge was bat-deaf. Yet he hears (in the same 
stanza) "the solitary humble-bee singing in the bean-flower" 
— one bee in a bean-field and not a score of bats overhead ! 
But perhaps his humble-bee was really a cockchafer, or ten 
thousand of them, busy among the beans. Crabbe could 
hear the bats "feebly shriek," and speaks of the sound as 



Some Beasts of Reproach. 105 

the note of " their melancholy love." Clare also calls the 
bat " shrieking." But except for these and perhaps half-a- 
dozen more, I do not know that any of the many poets 
who have introduced the bat into their evening sketches 
remark its extraordinary voice. 

The flutter of its wings attracts their notice frequently. 
Thus Collins has — 

"The weak-eyed bat, 
With short shrill shriek flits by on leathern wing." 1 

Grahame — 

" Round the strawy roof 
Is heard the bat's wing in the deep-hushed air." 

And again — 

"The winning wing of the dark bat." 
Now here again comes in the fact that the bat's flight is 
singularly noiseless. When it turns a sudden somersault, 
there is a supple flutter heard, and when it drops down out 
of the air close to the watcher's face in pursuit of a dodg- 
ing moth, the soft crumpling of its wings is audible. But 
it does not " whir," nor, as Byron says, " flap " — 

" The" long dim shadows of surrounding trees, 
The napping bat, the night-song of the breeze." 

But Byron perhaps, writing from Greece, heard the large 
frugivorous bat. 

As regards the flight itself, the descriptive touches are 
commonplace enough. Clare's "scouting bats begin their 
giddy round " is good, and so is Grahame's — 

" And even the reremouse when the twilight sleeps 
Unbreathing, spreads her torpid wings and round 
From stack to house or barn and round again, 
With many a sudden turn, flits and eludes 
The eye : " 

1 How many poets use the " leathern wing ? " Crabbe has " webby," 
and Garth "sooty," but the rest when they specify the wing say 
"leathern." 



io6 The Poets Beasts. 

for each specifies a fact of observation — the " scouting " of 
the bat, which, like a pigeon thrown up into the air, first 
casts about in the sky for a while till it gets its bearings, 
and then settles down to its work, and the sudden evanish- 
its of bats on the wing, eluding the eye by marvellous 
nimbleness. Shelley has "quick bats in their twilight 
dance," and Hurdis. with his usual clumsy fidelity — 

"What time the bat 
Hurries precipitous on leathern m ing, 
Brisk evolution in the dusky air 
With sudden wheels performing."' 

But all the rest of the "fluttering," "wavering," "flitting," 
" mazy " bats are studiously commonplace, and thrown in 
as it were by way of a touch of local colour, just as bees 
are sprinkled about in a flowery verse by poets who need 
a lit: ife. 

But why should the bat be taunted as being "torpid," 
"drowsy. liking? It is no lazier than the sky- 

lark. The only difference is that it usually (not as a rule) 
s all day, instead of sleeping all night Are the 
ers of the London morning papers "torpid," "drowsy," 
and hey have to do the same. One 

poet only. A. Whson, does the little mouse-on-wings justice : 

■ bat, the busiest of the midnight I 
That wing the air or sulky tread the plain, 
rrioming open on each field and flower, 
. ends her mazes in yon ruined tower.'' 

So much for the poets' best side of the bat, the bat 
natural ; but even to it, imperfect as it is. has to be added 
the normal error of the poets of thinking that the bat was 
a bird, "an ominous fowl" — 

"Oui, je te recc: 
Triste oiseau ! soeur du hibou funebre. " 

So says Victor Hugo, and the error of the bird-bat is 



Some Beasts of Reproach. 107 

probably, therefore, a widely spread one. ^Esop gave 
countenance to it in his bat "half bird, half beast;" and 
many poets give themselves the advantage of the doubt. 
Spenser commences his list of " fatal birds " with " the 
leather-winge'd bat." Southey makes fun of the mistake in 

" The midnighte howre when all the fowles 
Are housed and hushte save battes and owles, 
Yatte screche they're bodynges shrille ; " 

and Dryden makes a happy hit in the couplet — 

" Nor birds nor beasts, but just a kind of bat, 
A twilight animal, true to neither cause." 

But why should Montgomery have included the bat among 
his " Birds " or Scott perpetuated the fiction ? 

On the other, its fanciful side, the bat is a thing of 
reproach, pure and simple. Because it flies by night, it is 
"obscene," and everything, therefore, that goes on by night 
is bat-like. For it is no innocent thing this poets' bat. It 
is " ghastly " and " blood-loving," the vampyre — 

" In the air a ghastly bat bereft 

Of sense has flitted with a mad surprise." 

In this aspect, however, it does not belong to my present 
subject, but to the Fauna of Fancy. But there is a modi- 
fication of it that properly belongs to the Beasts of Reproach 
— the "ill-omened bat " — and this is by far the most frequent 
view which the poets take of the grotesque but harmless 
creature. For then, the bat adds a desolation to desolate 
places and a horror to the horrible. Shattered thrones, 
empty harem-bowers, crumbling beds of state (Crabbe), and 
rifted minster-spires, are the perches of bats ; ruins are their 
pleasure-haunts, deadly nightshade their bower, and wolves 
their boon companions — 

" Come list and hark, the bell doth toll 
For some but now departing soul, 



io8 TJic Poets Bea 

And was not that some ominous fowl — 
The bat, the night-crow, or screech-. 

Rogers' bandit greets as old companions, in his hiding- 
place, "the bat, the toad, the blind-worm, and the hl 

and Darwin's naturalist hears 
I 

" Shrill scream, the famished bats and shivering 
And loud and long the dog of midnight howls."' 

"Through darksome gulfs the bats for ever skim, the 
haunts of howling wolves and panthers grim " (Wilson) ; 
"nocturnal bats and birds obscene" (Pope) : "the bat flies 
transient o'er the dusky green, and night's foul birds along 
the sullen twilight sail " (Beat: kes airy 

round on leathern wing?, and the hoarse owl his w 
dirges sings '' [G 

It is easy, therefore, to anticipate the place that bats fill 
in poetical metaphor. As " vampyre symbolise the 

foulest crimes and the worst enemies of humanity. As the 
bat ominous, they are all sorts and conditions of men that 
are abroad at . evil intentions, and are emblematic 

of hovering disaster. As the bat natural, they repre 
drowsy, day-shunning indolence, purblind ignorance, and 
from the weirdness of their form and feature suggest things 
from another world — 

''Then did whisper low 
Si me of the little spirits that bat-like clung, 
i clustered round the opening.'" — Jcj>: - 

This is permissible. It is quite fair to the bat to 
that its gnome-like countenance and self-absorbed, self- 
enwrapped attitudes should be used as similes for that 
which is impish and uncanny, just as :hes 

the wings of bats, and Parnell calls them the " dire imps of 
darkness." But it is a crime against poetry to make the 
bat itself obscene and abominable, a thing of reproach. If 



Sows JJlc?s/s of Reproach. 109 

the poets wished to find hard things to say of the crea- 
ture, why did they not say that its caves stink like a wilder- 
ness of polecats, or that its fur is incredibly swarming with 
vermin ? 

To those who have seen the " flying foxes " of tropical 
countries — stretching nearly five feet across the wings- 
flapping their solemn way across the evening sky, or have 
seen them with softly fanning wings wheeling round the wild 
fruit trees, the ' ; vampyre " and generally weird idea of the 
bat is easily explicable. But that the busy, merry, little 
harlequin of our English twilight should have earned for 
itself the ill name it possesses, shows a fertility of supersti- 
tion which is very interest::. 

"Bloody, blooey 
Come into my hat ! 

cics the country urchin, holding his cap over the bridge as 
the tiny flickering things tumble about in the air in pursuit 
of moths and beetles. He expects this prodigious spell to 
fascinate ''the night-flier" into the cap which he holds out 
for its reception. Nor are his elders more sensible. In 
Scotland they call them " bawkie birds.'' things of iil-omen ; 
ar.d over a large part of rural England they are supposed to 
be blood-suckers, and in league with the inhabitants of 
"the other work;/' But public opinion has been against 
them from the first. 

At the Creation, so they say, the bat affected (as did the 
ostrich) to be neither beast nor bird, in the hope of escap- 
ing the task which Allah was apportioning to all, but was 
punished in the end by being told that all the day and all 
the night were already distributed, and that it must make 
shift for itself as it could with those hours which were neither 
the one nor the other. The Mosaic law pronounced the bat 
— " the fowl that creeps, going on all fours " — an abomina- 
tion, and the Rabbis carried on the national prejudice. In 



1 1 o The Poets' Beasts. 

Egypt, meanwhile, it had attracted attention, been adopted 
into the menagerie of worship, and solemnly dedicated to 
Darkness. Rome and Greece took their bat from Egypt, 
and we find the bat drawing the car of Nox through the 
sky, and transformation into the bat one of the gloomiest 
penalties within the imagination of the myth-maker. 

Here and there, however, it is redeemed from oppro- 
brium, as by the Moslem legend of Isa making a bat, 
" Khopash," out of clay and endowing it with life, so that 
it might come and tell him in his seclusion among the 
mountains when the sunset-hour for the suspension of the 
Ramazan fast approached. 

So to-day we find this useful little animal, a mouse on 
wings, regarded by a majority of mankind with apprehen- 
sion and dislike. Its appearance when seated is certainly 
against it ; but on the wing it is the very incarnation of 
buoyant happiness. Under the inquiries of science its 
amazing sensitiveness to touch, amounting indeed almost 
to the possession of a new sense, has been the admiration 
of naturalists, while its extraordinary. suspension of life for 
part of the year (differing altogether in character and degree 
from the hibernation of dormice and bears) ranks certainly 
among the wonders of Nature. But apart from science, is 
not a word of gratitude due to a creature that has ventured 
upon such originality in the matter of nose ? It is horn- 
nosed, leaf-nosed, sometimes it wears a crest on the top of 
it, sometimes a fleur-de-lys, sometimes a mimic horse-shoe ; 
but it is always fantastic and unexpected. It is the very 
orchis of noses. 

Had I "the fox" for my subject, I should be over- 
whelmed by it, for Reynard covers a whole volume of 
legend and folk-lore. But, fortunately, it is only the poets' 
fox that concerns me, and this is a very meagre and single- 
sided beast. Not that it does not abound in verse — it 
swarms. But, then, it is always the same old fox. It has 



Some Beasts of Reproach. 1 1 1 

its den in solitudes, and issues stealthily forth to rob the 
neighbouring poultry-yard, and by-and-by the huntsmen 
meet and the "ruthless," "bloody-minded" fox is done to 
death. It is, therefore, a suitable simile for all crafty and 
guileful persons, especially those who meet with just punish- 
ment for their crimes. 

But this is not the animal that was made for the earth, 
and of the two foxes I prefer the natural one. I should 
like to have found here and there in the poets a reference 
to the beautiful ruddy fox that by its simple presence, pass- 
ing across a scrap of woodland scenery, startles the land- 
scape into unwonted picturesqueness, and marshals all the 
surrounding foliage into a back-ground for the little living 
spark of colour moving in front ; or a word for the small 
foxes, the prettiest wild-thing cubs in the world, with the 
innocentest faces and most winning ways ; or a word of 
sympathy for the vixen, that will run before the hounds 
with a cub in her mouth for miles and miles, and after 
hiding it, will double and turn upon her course, careless 
for the time of her own life, in the hope of leading away 
the hounds from her treasure — a word, in fact, for the 
pretty little beast of prey that is still a native of England, 
and, but for encroaching farmsteads and game-preservers, 
would be abundantly content to live entirely upon wild 
birds and animals. But of this creature, the beautiful 
and brave little English fox, the poets know nothing. 
Even its cheery voice is called "an ominous howl" 
(Grahame), and said to "make approaching night more 
dismal fall." 

It is "ruthless," "gaunt," "noxious," "wicked," "false," 
"greedy," "stinking," "obscene," "vagrant;" "the scoundrel 
fox ; " " felon " and " villain ; " " the nightly robber of 
the fold;" "abhorred alive, more loathsome still when 
dead." 

And why a"l this pother ? Simply because the fox eats 



1 1 2 The Poets Beasts. 

the property of man. It runs off with a cock, and lo ! the 
chorus of the poets ! — 

" They crieden out, harow and wa'a wa ! 
A ha the fox ! and after him they ran 
And eke with staves many another man 
Ran Colle our dogge, and Talbot and Gerlond, 
And Malkin with hire distaf in hire bond, 
Ran cow and calf, and eke the veray fa 
So fered were for berking of the dog. 
And shouting of the men and women eke, 
They ronnen so, hem thought hir hertes breke. 
They yelleden as fendes don in helle ; 
The dokes crieuen as men wold hem quelle, 
The gees for fere 

Out of the hive came the swarme of bees. 
So hideous was the noise, a benedicite ! 
Certes be Jakke Straw, and bis meinie, 
Ne maden never shoutes half so shrille, 
Whan that they wolden any Fleming kille, 
As thilke day was made upon the fox. 
Of bras they broughten beemes and of box, 
Of horn and bone, in which they blew and pouped, 
And therwithal they shiiked and they houped : 
It seem'd as that the heven shulde (:. 

It inhabits "green ruins" and "gaping tombs," "looks 
out from the windows of the desolate dwelling of Ml. 
and lodges for the night in caves where none else but the 
cold snake houses. This gives the fox the necessary d<._ 
of "obscenity." But as the "subtle pilfering fox,*' "the 
farmer's mortal foe." it has often to be found less remote 
from the habitations of men and chickens. It is most 
conspicuous, therefore, as a farmyard prowler, as a hen- 
stealer. Sometimes, as in Somerville, it seizes " the poor 
defenceless lamb, whose sweet warm blood supplies a rich 
repast ; " or in Pope, Dryden, Dyer, Grahame, prowls round 
the flock basking in the sun, the frisking lambs on the bank, 
or the fold, "to seize a itragjir.g prey." And Piers tells 
Palinode a wonderful story of the false fox that comes in 



Some Beasts of Reproach. 1 1 3 

pedlar's guise and tempts little " Kiddie " to its doom, in 
spite of his mother's warning words before she "yode forth 
abroad unto the greene wood." Quoth she — 

" Many wilde beastes liggen in waite, 
For to entrap in thy tender state, 
But most the foxe, maister of collusion, 
For he has vowed thy last confusion. 
Forthy, my Kiddie ; be rulde by me 
And never give trust to his trecheree ; 
And if he chaunce come when I am abroade, 
Sperre the yate fast, for fear of fraude ; 
Ne for all his worst, nor for his best 
Open the dore at his request." 

But of course Kiddie does, and of course the false fox 
" ranne away with him in all hast." 

But, as a rule, it is the rape of the hen that inflames 
the poets to most indignant declamation, like Clare's — 

" Housewives discoursing 'bout their hens and cocks, 
Spinning long stories, wearing half the day, 
Sad deeds bewailing of the prowling fox, 
How in the roost the thief had knaved his way, 
And made their market profits all a prey." 

Vet it is not often that the poets attribute to the fox that 
which in all other fabulists is its chief failing, namely, its 
going about its larcenies by twilight. The Entre chien et 
loup is "the great epical hour of the fox." It is the hour 
of betrayals and perfidies, of doubts and mythical un- 
certainties. 

Some score of poets sing the glorious chase, and for 
downright brutality commend me to your foxhunting 
poet, Bloomfield emphatically excepted — and, of course, 
Cowper. 

"The reeking roaring hero of the chase 
I give him over as a desperate case ; 
Physicians write in hopes to work a cure 
Never, if honest ones, when death is sure ; 



1 1 4 The Poets Beasts. 

And though the fox he follows may be tanned, 

A mere fox-follower never is reclaimed : x 

Some farrier should prescribe his proper course 

Whose only fit companion is his horse : 

Or if deserving of a better doom 

The nobler beast judge otherwise, his groom." 

The squire, when he goes to the cover-side, never affects 
a sympathy with chickens, or maudlcs about " the turkey's 
callow care." Most of the hunt are there because they 
enjoy the excitement of the hard ride, a few because they 
take an extra pleasure in seeing hounds working well, but 
all of them hunt the fox because it is brave. Probably, also, 
not a man in the field, except the huntsman, cares whether 
the fox is killed or not They want to overtake it, to break 
down the pluck of the " game " little beast by a combination 
of their hounds' sagacity, their horses' power, and their own 
straight riding. The huntsman likes to see the fox killed 
simply from a professional point of view. It encourages 
the pack, and the brush is "good for a sovereign." But the 
fox-hunting poet musters his hounds and huntsmen out of 
sheer revenge, and murderously pursues the fox because it 
has killed a chicken, and exults over the actual mangling 
of the little body. 

" Here, huntsman, from this height 
Observe yon birds of prey ; if I can judge 
'Tis there the villain lurks, they hover round, 
And claim him as their own. Was I not right ? 
See ! there he creep's along, his brush he drags, 
And sweeps the mire impure : from his wide jaws 
His tongue unmoisten'd hangs, symptoms too sure 
Of sudden death. 

Ha ! yet he flies, nor yields 
To black despair. But one loose more, and all 

1 " The fox's brush still emulous to wtrar, 
He scours the county in his elbow-chair." 

— Kogcrs : Pleasures of Memory. 



Some Beasts of Reproach. 1 1 5 

I lis wiles are vain. Hark ! thro' yon village now 
The rattling clamour rings. The barns, the cots, 
And leafless elms, return the joyous sounds. 
Thro' ev'ry homestall, and thro' ev'ry yard 
His midnight walks, panting, forlorn, he flies. 

Thro' ev'ry hole he sneaks, thro' every jakes 
Plunging he wades besmear'd, and fondly hopes 
In a superior stench to lose his own : 
Lut faithful to the track th' unerring hounds 
With peals of echoing vengeance close pursue. 
And now distress'd, no shelt'ring covert near, 
Into the hen-roost he creeps, whose walls with gore 
Distain'd, attest his guilt. 

There, villain ! there 
Expect thy fate deserv'd. And soon from thence 
The pack, inquisitive, with clamour loud, 
Drag out their trembling prize, and on his blood 
With greedy transport feast. In bolder notes, 
Each sounding horn proclaims the felon dead, 
And all th' assembled village shouts for joy. 

The farmer, who beholds his mortal foe 
Stretch'd at his feet, applauds the glorious deed, 
And grateful calls us to a short repast : 
In the full glass the liquid amber smiles, 
Our native product ; and his good old mate 
With choicest viands heaps the lib'ral board, 
To crown our triumphs and reward our toils." 

Now fox-hunting, I take it, requires no condoning from 
anybody. But to go about to condone it, by pretending 
that the fox is "the terror of the hamlet," "the farmer's 
mortal foe," a " bloody-minded villain," and must be killed 
itself in retribution for ducklings eaten, is to condemn the 
sport as inhuman, and fox-hunters as monsters of cruelty. 

" Give ye Britons ! then 
Your sportive fury, pitiless, to pour, 
Loose on the mighty robber of the fold ! 
Him from his craggy winding haunts unearthed, 



1 1 6 The Poets Beasts. 

Let all the thunders of the chase pursue. 
Happy he . . . 

Who sees the villain seized and dying hard, 
Without complaint, though by an hundred mouths 
Relentless torn ! " 

Cowper is bad enough, but read Leyden. The fox is 
supposed to have gone to earth, but a terrier turns him 
out — 

" His guilt glares hideous when, in open day, 
The villain stands revealed, with dumb dismay, 
When guileful rapine's hoarded spoils are viewed, 
And guilty caverns stained with guiltless blood. 
None grieve when low the trembling felon lies, 
Who unlamenting, 1 unlamented dies ; 
His limbs the hungry brood of ravens feed, 
Abhorred alive, more loathsome still when dead." 

And all this about a fox ! The innocence of the poet as to 
the procedure and incidents of " the thunders of the chase " 
are as delightful as his animus is discreditable above all to 
a poet. But Somerville is, perhaps, the most brutal of the 
versifying fox-hunters, for he rejoices alike over the " greedy 
transport " of a score of big hounds swallowing one small 
fox, and over the killing of foxes in traps ! So that he not 
only brutalises the sport which he professes to enjoy, but 
sins against it in the worst manner a fox-hunter can. 

'• Nor hounds alone the noxious brood destroy. 
The plundered warrener full many a wile 
Devises to entrap his greedy foe, 
Fat with nocturnal spoils. At close of day 
With silence drags his trail, then from the ground 
Pares thin the close-grazed turf, and with nice hand 

1 On this point of the silence with which the fox handsomely meets 
death, compare Scott's " he took a hundred mortal wounds as mute 
as fox 'mongst mangling hounds," and Thomson's " dying hard, with- 
out complaint, though by an hundred mouths relentless torn." 



Some Beasts of Reproach. 1 1 7 

Covers the latent death, with curious springs 
Prepared to fly at once, whene'er the tread 
Of man or beast unwarily shall press 
The yielding surface. By th' indented steel 
With gripe tenacious held, the felon grins 
And struggles, but in vain ; yet oft 'tis known 
When every art has failed, the captive fox 
Has shared the wounded joint, and with a limb 
Compounded for his life. But if, perchance, 
In the deep pitfall plunged, there's no escape, 
But unreprieved he dies, and bleached in air, 
The jest of clowns, his reeking carcase hangs." 

" We 1 can but raise our feeble voice in mild protest 
against the cruel misrepresentations to which the fox ia 
exposed in Reineke Fuchs, wherein he is credited with every 
vice under the sun, and wins his final victory over hia 
enemy Sir Isegrim by the basest perfidy on record. The 
fox of natural history, we venture to plead, is not so bad 
as all this. He is simply a robber — at once a highwayman, 
burglar, and garotter — but he is not a hypocrite (at least, 
more than his profession requires) ; and as to his private 
morals, he is an excellent husband and pen de fatnille, tak- 
ing unusual pleasure in the sweets of domestic life and the 
gambols of his infant offspring. . . . The stories about the 
race are mostly base fabrications. Fehieke Fuchs is, as we 
have already said, one long unpardonable libel." 

Now "Reynard the Fox" is exactly the fox of poetry, 
and, indeed, it is very possible, considering the extraordr 
nary popularity of that " pleasant history," that the poets 
really borrowed their Reynard from that ancient work. 

But in the Middle Ages the fox had a literature to itself, 
and has been ever since one of the most conspicuous 
features of folk-lore — but always in the same aspect of a 
practical joker of a sinister kind. To my mind he resembles 
the Manobohzo of Red-Indian legends, " the mischief- 

1 Francis Power Cobbe, "False Beasts and True." 



n8 



The Poets Beasts. 



maker," and the Loki of Scandinavia. Earliest, perhaps, 
of all myths is the so-called " solar," and in it the fox per- 
petually figures as the grim humorist that is perpetually 
keeping chanticleer in alarm. Each is perpetually out- 
witting the other, and will continue to do so till the sun 
ceases to rise and set. 

The fox-twilight just comes on the scene as the cock- 
daylight is disappearing from sight, and gets weary again of 
waiting for the cock's return just as his patience was on the 
point of being rewarded by the breaking of dawn. Towards 
sunset the fox comes stealing into sight, but the cock is 
at that moment making off. Next morning the cock, see- 
ing his adversary (" the fox-shadows ") slinking away, pops 
out his head and crows. And so the old contest goes on. 

Following this ancient precedent, therefore, folk-lore 
makes the fox get into trouble himself as often as into 
mischief — for though Reynard is one of the most cunning 
of beasts, his cunning, like that of the wolf, is constantly 
overreaching itself. 




V. 



ASSES AND APES. 

Your asses and your apes, 

And other brutes in human shapes." — Beattie. 



ASSES. 

"The ass, that heavy, stupid, lumpish beast" (Oldham) ; "slouth- 
full " (Spenser) ; " whom Nature reason hath denied " (Groome) ; 
"heavy-headed thing" (Wordsworth); "slow beast" (Southey) ; 
"obstinate, dull," &c. (Swift, Gay, &c.) ; "serious" (King) ; "solemn, 
puir lang-legs" (Allan Ramsay). 

Glory has been pernicious to the ass. So saith an ancient 
of wisdom ; and it may be that the donkey, satisfied with 
past honours, and conscious of the worth that was once set 
upon him, has become indifferent to the opinion of a de- 
generate race of men who knew him not in his prime — his 
golden prime, in the good old time of Haroun Al-Raschid. 
So he retires from public favour, like some great actor or 
author who has pleased the taste of his day, but finds a 
generation overtaking him that has no congenial sym- 
pathies; and so, loftily withdrawing with his obsolete 
laurels, he walks the world wrapped as in a cloak with self- 
conscious merit and voluntarily undistinguished. 

For myself, when I watch a donkey at his work, be his 
master a good or a bad one, there grows upon me somehow 
a suspicion that the animal " whose talent for burdens is 
wondrous " is deliberately concealing other talents, and that 



120 The Poets Beasts. 

its meekness arises from condescension rather than submis- 
sion ; that it prefers to subject itself to perennial crucifixion 
rather than tediously prove its patents to nobility. Legend 
says it bears the cross upon its back to keep men in recol- 
lection of the exaltation of the humble to offices of honour, 
and that its meekness is to remind us that even under such 
honours we should still remain humble. 1 But legend is 
often audaciously wrong. For when our Saviour went into 
Jerusalem on an ass, He selected the beast upon which it 
was then considered most honourable to ride. The donkey 
was — as it still is — the steed of the rich, the high in place, 
and the luxurious. There was no humility intended or ex- 
pressed in that notable procession; on the contrary, it was 
our Saviour's one and only assertion of personal conse- 
quence, His solitary condescension to the earthly ambitions 
of the disciples. Moreover, viewed naturally instead of 
traditionally, the cross-stripe on the donkey's back gives 
the " heavy-headed thing " a very interesting significance, 
for it may be the last lingering vestige of a zebrine ancestry. 
All the other stripes have been thrashed off its hide. Be- 
wildered by ill-usage, they have run together and blended 
into a colour that, like the character of the wearer, is mono- 
tonous, dull, serious, solemn. I prefer then the natural and 
matter-of-fact explanation of the emblem on the donkey's 
back to the legendary one, for it directly associates the poor 
animal with its proud wild-life past, and by a single line of 
colour suffices to restore " the heavy, stupid, lumpish thing " 
of the poets to its original Asiatic and African honours and 
freedom. 

" Didst thou from service the wild ass discharge, 
And break his bonds, and bid him live at large ; 
Through the wide waste, his ample mansion, roam, 
And lose himself in his unbounded home ? 

1 In Scotland, they say the stripe is the bruise of Balaam's staff". 



Asses and Apes. 121 

By Nature's hand magnificently fed, 

His meal is on the range of mountains spread ; 

As in pure air aloft he bounds along, 

He sees in distant smoke the city throng ; 

Conscious of freedom, scorns the smothered train, 

The threat'ning driver, and the servile rein." 1 

The poets, more poetico, accept the dull significance of the 
monkish fancy in preference to the more eloquent parable 
of the scientific fact, and refer the cross to Calvary rather 
than Central Africa. So Rogers, seeing " the panniered 
ass browsing the hedge by fits," did not probably recognise 
therein the old instinct of asinine vigilance when the wild 
ass — "the ass of savage kind," as Watts calls it — grazed 
only two steps at a time, and kept stopping between 
mouthfuls to raise its head, in order to scan the horizon 
and sniff the breeze. Nor perhaps did Wordsworth, who 
saw the ass, 

" With motion dull 

Upon the pivot of his skull 

Turn round his long left ear," 

associate the gesture with days of suspicious freedom, when 
the long left ear of the sentinel ass caught the first whisper 
of approaching danger and gave timely warning to the herd 
of otherwise fatal surprise. 

For once upon a time the wild asses, the onagers, were 
the only representatives of the family, and they were so 
swift of foot and so courageous that the east and the south 
wore their hides as robes of honour, and kings and chiefs 
took the wild ass for their cognisance and badge. It was 
hunting an ass, then a royal sport, that Bairam, Prince of 
Persia, lost his life, plumping into the pool in the Vale of 
Houris and being never seen again. Oriental children wore 
shreds of ass-skin round their necks that they might grow 
up generous and brave. Did Ali, " the Lion of the Lord," 

1 Young's paraphrase of Job. 



i 2 2 The Poets Beasts. 

intend any disparagement of the Prophet's favourite horse 
when he named his own donkey Duldul after it? Thus 
prized, the wild ass soon came under domestication, and 
the under-sized drudge of the London streets is the latest 
and most degraded variation of the species. But inter- 
mediate between the proud vagabond of the desert and the 
costermonger's "moke" come many animals more worthy, 
physically, of their lineage. In Egypt, the white ass still 
claims something of the respect, and fetches the high price, 
of olden days ; and during the Egyptian war I remember 
seeing more than one of these animals figuring conspicuously 
in the British camp. A distinguished general, a baronet, 
and two M.P.'s, rode to the front, as used to ride the fifty 
sons of Jair. All over Asia Minor the donkey of superior 
caste is the recognised " hack " of the well-to-do, and I have 
seen them not only in the Levant, but in Southern Europe 
and in Eastern Africa, sumptuously caparisoned as steeds, 
and of a size and form that dignified their office far better 
than some of the ponies of the Cossacks of the Don, the 
tattoos of India, the bronchos of Western America, or the 
rat-like chargers of Beluchi warriors. 

And I have overwhelming authority from the Past for 
my respect for donkeys. The purely stupid ass was un- 
known to antiquity. Take Hindoo mythology alone. There 
we find the donkey in divine, demoniacal, or Ghandarvic 
aspects — that is, benign, malign, or merely vagabond and 
loose-moralled — but never ignominious or ridiculous. The 
ass of Indra is a potent personage, and, as the warrior that 
conquers at Yama, rises to the dignity of the Solar Hero, 
the Sun itself. Or, if you will, take the more familiar 
Greek and Latin. What was the ass Lucius but the Sun ? 
Sacred to Bacchus, it paced along triumphant in Dionysic 
feasts ; it was honoured, as it well deserved, in the worship 
of Vesta, and sacrificed as a worthy offering to the God of 
War. 



Asses and Apes. 123 

A god, it is true, gave Midas donkey's ears, but it was 
just like the intolerance of a divinity to do so. The 
perpetrator of the insult was Apollo (who ought to have 
known better), whose music the Phrygian king had pro- 
nounced inferior to that of Pan, and so — in order to gag 
honest criticism — the god, forsooth, gave Midas donkey's 
ears ! For myself, admiring fearlessness in critics, and 
admiring also the music of Nature above that of art, I shall 
always believe that Midas was right and that Apollo was 
fairly beaten, just as I shall continue to believe that George 
the Fourth was really fat even though Leigh Hunt had to 
go to prison for saying so. And mark the mean ingenuity 
of Apollo's retaliation. Pan, whom Midas preferred, some- 
times wore asses' ears himself. They were his emblem of 
acute hearing, of a perception open to the subtlest harmonies 
of the woods and fields, and therefore in lengthening the 
Phrygian's ears the sulky divinity thought to put an affront 
upon Midas' patron too. It is for posterity to avenge the 
critic on his petty-minded tormentor. 
Again — 

" Silenus on his ass, 

Pelted with flowers as he on did pass 

Tipsily quaffing," 

is not, either in Keats or the classics, made ridiculous by 
his vehicle ; for it should not be forgotten that the jolly 
old man being placed on an ass points to the importance 
of the animal in Bacchic worship, and is not intended to 
derogate from the dignity of the boon companion of the 
gods. Says a learned commentator upon the pageant, 
" The ass was in fact the symbol of Silenus' wisdom and 
his prophetical powers." 

But I regret that the esteem in which it was held should 
so often have marked out the donkey as a proper object 
for sacrifice. But so it was. The Scythians slew it in 
honour of the god of battles, and the Egyptians in honour 



124 The Poets Beasts. 

of the god of learning. When it was a red one. the Copts 
thrust it with much pious ceremonial over the top of a 
precipice, as a " scape-ass " for the people. Hence, by an 
oblique prolongation of the vicarious-sinner idea, " wicked 
as a red ass " became a Coptic proverb. In the same vein, 
the Nagas to this day select red cocks for augury and 
sacrifice. Not that red was always an honoured tint. Cain's 
hair, they say, was red, and Nebuchadnezzar's, for his sins, 
was turned to the same colour. 

As for its voice, "the loud clarion of the braying ass," 
as Pope calls it, the donkey fares badly at poets' hands. 
And, indeed, I defy any one to hear a donkey fairly out and 
not to laugh at the cavernous melancholy of the animal's 
concluding notes. It commences with an ardour that has 
something of military enthusiasm in it, but suddenly, as if 
the memory of secret griefs had supervened, the voice drops 
from the full-breathed outcry that rings across the Bikaneer 
wastes, to a dolorous pumping up of hollow groans and 
husky sobs that had justified the venerable Philemon in his 
mirthful death far better than the sight of a donkey eating 
figs. But Philemon, poor dry old soul, was in his ninety- 
seventh year, and needed no great excuse for dying. Yet 
if I had to find some excuse myself for dying of laughter, 
when I was only three years off the century, I think I 
should have myself transported to some spot on the banks 
of holy Ganges where Hindoo washermen congregate, and 
there pleasantly demise while laughing at their donkeys 
braying. 

" To all the echoes south and north, 

And east and west, the ass sent forth 

A loud and piteous bray." 



And again — 



" Once more the ass did lengthen out 
More ruefully an endless shout, 
The long, dry, see-saw of his horrid bray." 



Asses and Apes. 125 

Wordsworth, like the other poets, here recognises the 
melancholy of the donkey's voice, but (like the others), 
afraid of making the animal natural, takes no notice of the 
unrivalled ludicrousness of the sounds it produces. When 
it frightened John Gilpin's horse, the ass " did sing most 
loud and clear," but this is the nearest approach to appre- 
ciation of this great jest of Nature that I know of in verse. 

Not that even its voice is altogether ridiculous. " The 
braying of Silenus his ass " {iiitempestivos edidit ore sonos) 
" conduced much to the profiigation of the giants." 

" So, when at Bathos earth's big offspring strove 
To scale the skies, and wage a war wiih Jove, 
Soon as the ass of old Silenus brayed, 
The trembling rebels in confusion fled." 1 

And though the " auctor damoris " may be subsequently 
sacrificed, it is not from any depreciation of his resonant 
services, but rather in recognition of them. It finds honour- 
able mention in Holy Writ, and in the Ass-mass of the 
monks, commemorative of the flight into Egypt — 

" Asinus egregius, 
Asinus dominorum, 

Super dromedarios 
Velox Madianeos," 

there was a hee-haw refrain, the choir on one side taking 
the hee, and on the other the haw. Moreover, in the myths 
of many countries, and the fairy tales of nearly all, the 
donkey's voice plays sometimes a serious and important 
part. 

" Ah ! those dreadful yells, what soul can hear 
That owns a carcase and not quake for fear ? 
Demons produce them doubtless, brazen-clawed 
And fanged with brass, the demons are abroad.'* 2 

1 Garth, "The Dispensary." 2 Cowj.tr, "Needless Alarms." 



i 26 TJic Poets Beasts. 

Its character in fable and folk-lore is not always that 
which the poets attribute to it. It has other traits than 
stupidity and credulity. For though it is outwitted and 
betrayed by the fox, it outwits the wolf, and kicks all its 
teeth down its throat. Though it absurdly proposes to 
chirp like a grasshopper, and undertakes the role of lap-dog, 
it philosophises very sagaciously on the fortunes of the 
war-horse. 

" The a^s, whom Nature reason has denied, 
Content with instinct for his surer guide, 
Still follows that and wiselier does proceed ; 
He ne'er aspires with his harsh braying note 
The songsters of the wood to challenge out ; 
Nor, like this awkward smatterer in arts, 
Sets up himself for a vain ass of parts." 1 

The frogs, it is true, make fun of it, but the ass in turn 
flouts the mule. Under a mistaken sense of its own powers, 
it amiably proposes to serenade the beasts — Swift calls it 
" the nightingale of brutes " — and, with a self-respect that 
is not unbecoming, falls into the error of supposing that 
the homage paid to the image which it carries is intended 
for itself. But, on the other hand, it is always found sen- 
sibly selecting creature-comforts over mere vain-glory, and 
possessed of a considerable sense of humour. Till its glee 
overcame its discretion, the donkey in the lion's skin had 
a " high old time of it," as the Americans say, and kept all 
the beasts of the forest in a ridiculous stampede by its well- 
acted part ; and I can quite understand the long-eared one 
laughing prodigiously over the consternation and hubbub 
he was causing. Indeed, I am half inclined to think, with 
Bloomfield, that when the donkey played the part of the 
" Fakenham Ghost " he did so with full sense of the prac- 
tical joke. 

1 Oldham, "Satires of Baileau Imitated." 



Asses and Apes. 127 

Xor while mirthful itself has it failed to conduce to mirth 
in others, for, besides Philemon's disastrous cachination, 
we know that Chrisippus also fatally over-laughed himself 
on seeing an ass eat apples off a silver dish, and that 
Agelastus (Crassus of that ilk) only laughed once in all his 
life, and that was on seeing an ass eat thistles. 

Butler, I may note, confounds these two catastrophes for 
the sake of his rhyme — 

" Or he that laughed until he choked his whistle 
To rally on an ass that ate a thistle." 

The poets, however, have recognised only one aspect 
of the animal, namely, the familiar " cuddy," and, of its 
classical and historical honours, only two or three. " The 
blameless animal " of Balaam finds due reference ; but, so 
it seems to me, in order to point a personality or a jest. 
Thus Crashawe — 

" The ass of old had power to chide its wilful lord, 
And hast not thou the power to speak one word ? 
Not less a marvel, sure, this silence is in thee, 
Than that the ass of old to speak had liberty.'" 1 



1 Crashawe has the same idea again ; applied, however, to the ass 
that carried the infant Saviour into Egypt. He says to it — 

" Hath only anger an omnipotence 

In eloquence ? 
Within the lips of love and joy doth dwell 

No miracle ? 
Why else had Balaam's ass a tongue to chide 

His master's pride. 
And thou (Heaven-burthened beast) hast ne'er a word 

To praise thy Lord ? 
That he should find a tongue in vocal thunder 

Was a great wonder ; 
But oh ! methinks 'tis a far greater one 

That thou rind'st none." 



128 The Poets Beasts. 

Marvel has — 

" We ought to be wary and bridle our tongue, 
Bold speaking hath done both man and beast wrong. 
When the ass so boldly rebuked the prophet, 
Thou know' st what danger had like to come of it. 
Though the beast gave his master ne'er an ill word, 
Instead of cudgel Balaam wished for a sword." 

As an occupant of the stable on the first Christmas Day, 
it commands deference. Faber curiously and pleasantly 
explains its patience thus — 

" For long the ass with silent shadowy head 
Gszed on the infant Saviour. 



And for the ass 
To gaze on Him who saves both man and beast, 
Lifted his patient nature to a calm 
Transcending far the purposes of sleep." 

Allan Ramsay has a donkey that is a very particular fool 
— " egregiously an ass," as Othello says; but Peter Bell's, 
on the other hand, is an unnatural monster of drivelling 
intelligence. Crabbe, however, strikes the just middle in 
his " Resentment " — 

" Close at the door where he was wont to dwell, 
There his sole friend, the ass, was standing by, 
Half dead himself to see his master die." 

But there were many asses (besides those I have already 
referred to) of which the world has wide cognisance. The 
'Bricklebrit" donkey that wept sequins; Ali Baba's drove; 
the ass with the silver nose that hunted hares, and the 
little ass which the Queen bore and that itself married a 
queen ; the donkey-cabbages and the musician of Bremen 
— yet nowhere in folk-lore is it odious or even unlovable. 
But the poets have need of an animal that shall illustrate, 
as they think, an easy sneer, so when they do not use the 
owl they use the donkey. 



Asses and Apes. 129 

Metaphors and images are therefore abundantly drawn 
from this animal. Every one, from Moore's Sovereign — 

" A royal ass, by grace divine 
And right of ears, most asinine," 

to Crabbe's Schoolboy, is pelted with the epithet. 

" The man's a donkey — let him bray," suffices in Mackay 
to stand by itself as all-sufficient and not requiring explana- 
tion. Mankind in general belong to the species : says 
Cowper — 

" Man is the genuine offspring of revolt, 
Stubborn and sturdy, a wild ass's colt." 

So do nations collectively and separately ; as in Byron — 

" The world is a bundle of hay, 

Mankind are the asses who pull ; 
Each tugs it a different way, 

And the greatest of all is John Bull." 

Or as Oldham in his Satires, placing a donkey in London, 
asks — 

" What would he think on a Lord Mayor's Day 
Should he the pomp and pageantry survey, 
Or view the judges and their solemn train 
March with grave decency to kill a man ? 



What would he say, were he condemned to stand 
For one long hour in Fleet Street or the Strand ; 
To cast his eyes upon the motley throng, 
The two-legged herd, that daily pass along ? 

If, after prospect of all this, the ass 

Should find the voice he had in /Esop's days, 

Then, doctor, then, casting his eyes around 

On human fools, which everywhere abound, 

Content with thistles, from all envy free, 

And shaking his grave head, no doubt he'd cry, 

Good failh ! man is a beast as much as we ! " 

I 



150 The Poets Beasts. 

Individual classes of persons are specifically asses. Thus, 
in Falconer, kir.gs — 

" 'While fools adore and vassal lords obey, 

:he great ■ 

and. in Barry Corr. . aldermen — 

" Oh ! the tradesman he is rich, sirs, 
The bna well :: | 

The soldier he's a lion, 
The alderman's an a- 

Lovers — "the grave lover ever was an ass" (Johns:: 
sailors — "though he. plays the ass on shore, he is lion of 
the sea" (Cook); and courtiers (Moore — 

r.o one imr 
To the Court any fancy to persecute brutes, 
Protests, on the word of himself and his cr : 
Thai res been asses and ponies, 

e Court would have started no sort of objection, 
As Asses were .on." 

And. need I say it, critics : as in King — 

" The twilight owl and serious ass 

. e ds for modem critics pass." 

Individual personages addressed by this title are "too 
numerous to mention," 5 and, from Swift's Duke of Marl- 
borough to Byron's Wordsworth, they are most of them 
not only ass, but partly also ape. 

Summing up, then, the poets' donkeys, I find them a 
dull pack, for the poets as a rule seem to use the animal 
merely as the schoolboy does — as affording a ready epithet of 
abuse that comes within the comprehension of the meanest 
capacity — and to agree with Bums that the donkeys thick 
hide l was given it by a compassionate Providence as a pro- 

1 ■ Thou gavest the ass his hide, the snail his die —To R. Graham. 



Asses and Apes. 1 3 1 

vision against pre-ordained cudgelling. But if any other 
view of the Ass be worth taking, I venture to think the 
poets should have been the first to find it out and to 
utilise it. 



APES. 

"Freakish monkey" {Oldham) ; "abhorred baboons" {Montgomery) ; 
"apes with hateful stare" (Ho:d). 

The poets' apes — under which name I include (with due 
apologies to naturalists) the baboons and monkeys — are a 
deplorable creation. They are not " hateful " in the natural 
sense that the octopus or man-eating tigers or rattlesnakes 
might be, but they are unnaturally deformed into a despi- 
cable travesty of man at his worst and meanest. "A 
chattering, idle, airy kind," as Parnell calls them, is just 
criticism, and so is Shelley's "restless apes;" and so, too, 
Morris' " quick-chattering apes that yet in mockery of 
anxious men wrinkle their brows," for these are epithets 
from Nature ; but it is scarcely generous, I think, first of all 
to fancy a questionable resemblance between ourselves and 
monkeys, and then to abuse the monkey for all the vices and 
meannesses of the worst among us. The ape, they say, is 
the worst kind of a libel on a man — and an ape besides. 
Having reduced the human to its lowest, they call the 
monkey human and add " brute " besides ! The truth is, 
as the wise of all times have pointed out, man has a grudge 
against the Simian folk for being so like himself in body. 
Other animals, less amiable in themselves, are accepted 
with resignation, condoned with apologies, or treated with 
deference. But, as Congreve says — 

" Baboons and apes ridiculous we find, 
For what ? for ill-resembling human kind ; " 



132 The Poets Beasts. 

and poets find them worse than ridiculous : they find them 
every whit as bad as men. Says Goldsmith — 

" Of beasts it is confessed the ape 
Comes nearest us in human shape ; 
Like man, he imitates each fashion, 
And malice is his ruling passion." 

And yet, when the monkey itself suggests that it is a man, 
parrots and foxes are deputed to laugh down its' pretensions. 
Says one of the species, in Barry Cornwall — 

" For a monkey is much on a par with man. 

There's a difference 

Parrot. Ho, ho ! I shall crack my sides. 
Monkey. Though few see't till we sit side by side. 
On the one hand a man has a longer nose, 
And struts in clean linen wherever he goes ; 

But what has he like to the monkey's tail ? 

P,irrot. Ho! ho! ho ! ho !" 

And again in Spenser's delightful " Mother Hubberd's 
Tale," when the fox and ape rob the sleeping lion of his 
sceptre, crown, and robe, and then fall to disputing as to 
who should wear the regalia, the ape claims the preference 
over its companion on the ground of its resemblance to 
man. 

" Then too I am in person, in stature, 

Most like a man, the lord of every creature." 

But the fox flouts it — 

" Where you claim yourself for outward shape 
Most like a man, man is not like an ape 
In his chief parts, that is, in wit and spirit." 

So in JEso\), when the ape, passing through a graveyard, 
falls to deplorable weeping, its comrade, the donkey, asks 
the reason for such immoderate melancholy, and at the 
ape"s reply that it always weeps thus when in the presence 



Asses and Apes. 133 

of its "poor dead ancestors," the long-eared one laughs 
hugely. 

This resemblance, however, being postulated, the poets 
run easily on to debit the ape and its cousins with every 
human weakness that is especially contemptible. They are 
"pert" and "vain" and "dapper" in a score of poets; 
"coxcombs," "beaux," "lady-killers," in others. Now, 
every one of these epithets connotes a purely artificial 
character, and are all of them therefore inapplicable to the 
animal world. 

It is the "monkey-beau," "the buffoon-ape " — 

" Long did the beau claim kindred with the ape, 
And shone a monkey of sublimer shape ; 
Skilful to flirt the hat, the cane, the glove, 
And wear the pert grimace of monkey-love ; 
Of words unmeaning poured a ceaseless flood, 
While ladies looked as if they understood ; 
So chats one monkey to his brother, 
Chatters as if he understood the other." — Leyden. 

" The mimic apes " " that love to practise what they 
see." 

Yet, except in these very restricted phases, the poets have 
seldom sought for metaphor or moral from these singularly 
suggestive animals. Young finds an analogy between the 
monkey grasping at the reflection in the glass and man 
striving to find happiness in riches — 

" As monkeys at a mirror stand amazed — 
They fail to find what they so plainly see ; 
Thus men in shining riches see the face 
Of happiness, nor know it is a shade, 
But gaze, and touch, and peep and peep again, 
And wish, and wonder it is absent still." 

The ape epithet is applied as liberally and promiscuously 
as the asinine, and falls therefore on many of the same 
classes and individuals. Mankind generally are apes as 



134 The Poets Beasts. 

well as asses, and so are certain nations, notably Frenchmen 
• — " monkeys in action, parroquets in talk " — and so again 
also certain classes of men and women, such as courtiers, 
lovers, and {horresco referens) critics — 

" The critics hence may think themselves decreed 
To jerk their wits and rail at all they read, 
Foes to the tribe from which they trace their clan, 
As monkeys draw their pedigree from man." 

— Fenton's Epistle. 

Nor does the alderman escape this time either, for, 
though he is freely written down an ass, Somerville says — 

" A genius can't be forced, nor can 
You make an ape an alderman." 

Asses and apes in fact go together with much of the same 
arbitrary association as the bat and the owl among the poets' 
" birds." Anything or anybody that the poet takes a fancy 
to dislike for the moment is either ape or ass, or both. To 
such curious extremes is this sometimes carried that Ambi- 
tion is both monkey and donkey. Says Herbert, " the 
higher the ape goes the more he shows his tail ; " x and 
again Young — 

" What Nature has denied fools will pursue, 
As apes are ever walking upon two." 



1 Herbert forgets apes have no tails at all. This loss of the caudal 
ornament is accounted for by Spenser as follows : The ape and fox 
having stolen the sleeping lion's crown and usurped his palace, mis- 
govern so infamously that high Jove is incensed, wakes up the slum- 
bering monarch, and tells him what has happened. The lion returns 
roaring to his palace, bursts in and captures the usurpers : — 

" The ape's long taile (which then he had) he quight 
Cut off, and both eares pared of their height ; 
Since which all apes but half their eares have left, 
And of their tailes are utterly bereft." 



Asses and Apes. 135 

While in Shenstone, ambition " pricks up asses' ears ! ' 
Again Rochester, in his attack upon Sir Car Scrope, makes 
the knight both ape and ass — 

" When in thy person we more clearly see 
That satire's of divine authority, 
For God made one on man when he made thee, 
To show there were some men, as there are apes, 
Framed for mere sport, who differ but in shapes : 
In thee are all these contradictions joined, 
That make an ass prodigious and refined." 

Yet the monkey is not a fool — certainly not " a fool of 
the greatest size," as Christiana would say. In fables it is 
often the butt of other creatures, but it is its inquisitiveness 
as a rule that gets it into trouble, not its folly. The poets 
describe it as half an idiot, and with very bad intentions — 
"just skilled to know the right and choose the wrong" — 
but I have so often myself taken advantage in their wild 
forest state of their generous credulity and otherwise laud- 
able thirst for knowledge, that I speak as an expert when 
I say that though I have harmlessly astonished them with 
trains of gunpowder and frightened a whole community 
out of all gravity by striping one of their number an agree- 
able vermilion, I never saw anything in their behaviour, 
sober or drunk, composed or alarmed, that led me to think 
them particularly foolish, as compared with men. Indeed, 
when undisturbed in mind the monkey has a philosophical 
gravity which attracts my admiration, although I confess 
the alternating fits of monkey frivolity and indecorum 
exasperate me. 

" Since Father Noah squeezed the grape 
And took to such behaving 
As would have shamed our grandsire ape 
Before the days of shaving." x 

1 Weudell Holmes. 



136 The Poets Beasts. 

If they would only sit still a little longer and look me 
fairly in the eyes, I should like to ask the monkey, baboon, 
or ape some questions of which the solutions interest me 
greatly. Why are they always so sad-faced, when evidently 
the most content? And where is "the missing link? : ' Is 
it true that they speak among themselves in a lingua franco 
of their own, and that under the impulse of hidden panic 
they can articulate ? 

I remember once, in India, hearing at the Allahabad 
Club of a monkey which in a frenzy of terror had called 
out to its native attendant by name. It had seen a cobra 
coming towards it, and distinctly articulated its master's 
servant's name — so, at any rate, more than one person 
vouched for. Is then the tradition correct that monkeys 
refuse to talk lest they should be made to work ? 

" Play at dummy like the monkeys 

For fear mankind should make them flunkeys."' 

I should like, too, to ask them about the ape-faced men 
of Tartary and the Soko and the Pongo, Susumete and 
Engeena, and to get at the truth about Du Chaillu's gorillas. 
But as they are, the monkeys are impossible in conversation. 
They are too sudden, too unforeseen in their transformations 
from sense to ribaldry to be rational, too furtive in expression 
to be straightforward in reply, too fond of scratching neigh- 
bours to keep to the point. What a curious community of 
fur this is, by the way ! I know nothing like it, except the 
unanimous scratching of Hindoo fakirs. 

They seem to me sometimes to be the " fatal children " 
of the animal world, predestined to go wrong. They do 
not, it is true, rise to the achievements of King Arthur, Sir 
Tristram of Bevis, or Olga the Dane, Teiephos, Perseus or 
CEdipus, or any other of the famous "sons of sorrow,'' but 
they often arrive innocently like them at great catastrophes, 
their Kismet apparently leading them by the nose right up 



Asses and Apes. 137 

to, and over the precipice. At other times they seem 
deliberately affecting humanity, just as Bunyan had a craze 
to be thought a Jew; at others they convene in solemn 
assembly on purpose, so it seems, to burlesque us, for the 
whole Sanhedrim when assembled will gravely fall to, and 
search the fur of the smallest of the congregation ; very 
much as Domitian would ceremoniously convene the Senate, 
and then ask them the best stuffing for a mullet. 

As they exist in Nature — the sunny, merry, monkey-world 
of tree-tops — the four-handed folk meet with hardly a refer- 
ence. In his " Reign of Summer," Montgomery brings them 
into the dread presence of the jaguar — 

" The monkeys in grotesque amaze 
Down from their bending perches gaze ; 
But when he lifts his eye of fire, 
Quick to the topmost boughs retire." 

And again in the "Pelican Island" we have a glimpse of 
wild life — 

" A monkey pilfering a parrot's nest, 
But ere he bore the precious spoil away 
Surprised behind by beaks and wings and claws 
That made him scamper gibbering." 

And once more — 

" The small monkeys capering on the boughs 
And rioting on nectar and ambrosia, 
The produce of that paradise run wild ; 
No — these were merry if they were not wise." 

But even Montgomery, with an unusual deviation from his 
characteristic sympathy with the animal world, breaks off 
suddenly into abuse of the monkey cousins, the baboons — 

" Man's untutored hordes were sour and sullen 
Like those abhorred baboons, whose gluttonous taste 
They followed safely in their choice of food, 
And whose brute semblance of humanity 



138 The Poets Beasts. 

Made them more hideous than their prototypes 
That bore the genuine image and inscription, 
Defaced, indeed, but yet indelible." 

This poetical reversion of the more orthodox theory of 
evolution is curious. 

Rogers gives a passing line to " the marmoset," that 

" Dreams on his bough and plays the mimic still." 

And Gay out of his fancy draws an excellent picture of the 
" bhunder-logue " on the Ganges — 

" Ah ! sir, you never saw the Ganges — 
There dwell the nations called Quidnunkies 
(So Monomotapa calls monkeys) ; 
On either bank, from bough to bough 
They meet and chat (as we may nov 
Whispers go round, they grin, they shrug, 
They bow, they snarl, they scratch, they hug, 
And just as chance or whim provokes them, 
They either bite their friends or stroke them." 

But, as usual, this is only the introduction of spiteful 
analogy — 

" Thus have I seen some active prig 
To show his parts, bestride a twig ; 
L — d ! how the chattering tribe admire ! 
Not that he's wiser, but he's higher ; 
All long to try the vent'rous thing 
(For pow'r is but to have one's swing) ; 

From side to side he springs, he spurns, 
And bangs his foes and friends by turns." 

The tremendous honours of the tribe in the Egypt of the 
past, the India of to-day, receive no fuller recognition than 
in such lines as Oldham's — 

" In Egypt oft has seen the sot bow down 
And reverence some deified baboon." 



Asses and Apes. 139 

Nothing more than this ! — for these decayed divinities of 
an old-world worship, for the green monkey of Ethiopia that 
had a shrine in every temple in Memphis ; for Thoth, the 
god of letters ; the moon, the Bacchus of the Nile ; for 
Pthah, the all-wise pigmy baboon that Hermopolis revered ; 
for "the wise ones," the sacred monkeys and baboons of 
Hindostan ; the ourangs, "the wise old men" of Malaya; 
for the creatures that the Sanskrit renders as the sun, the 
insignia of Arjuna, the dread son of Indra ; for Sugrivas, 
prince of the baboons and Balin the snow-white ape ; for the 
great "pluvial monkey" — delicious beast — that Gubernatis is 
so wise about ; for the " Lords " of the Benares temples ; for 
the lineal posterity of Hanuman himself ! Was ever a more 
tremendous monkey, ape, or man, than the long-tailed friend 
of Rama ? How magnificent his flight across Asia ! The 
rivers in their courses turned, the trees on the hills tore 
themselves up by their roots, the mountains themselves 
swayed over, to follow in the fierce rush of the current 
made by his passage ! And then, was ever tail greased, 
before or since, to such momentous purpose as when 
Hanuman let the Philistines of Ceylon grease his, thinking, 
poor dupes, that the strength would go out of him thereby : 
and then, rising Samson-like, he sets his own tail ablaze, 
and, rushing through the royal city of Lanka, fires it in 
every quarter, and from a neighbouring peak surveys, in 
the tranquil complacency of accomplished revenge, the pro- 
digious conflagration ! 




VI. 



SOME HARMLESS BEASTS. 



In proportion as beasts are harmless, and less useful there- 
fore for comparison with the wickednesses and failings of 
men, the poets appear to find them uninteresting. Amia- 
bility among wild animals, unaccompanied by utility to man, 
would seem to be considered a deviation from poetical 
requirements which ought not to be encouraged. At any 
rate, to the lover of wild nature, the poets' treatment of the 
beasts appears to be a perpetual cynicism. But. inasmuch 
as many of the "harmless" animals — the elephant, beaver, 
deer, camel, bison, and so forth — contribute to the welfare 
of human beings, the poets' survey of them, though of a 
distant, half-hearted kind, is not unfriendly. 

Thus, they compliment the elephant, "the huge earth- 
shaking beast" that hath "a serpent twixt his eyes," on its 
unusual sagacity and on employing it in the service of man, 
remember the beaver's fur in its favour, credit the camel with 
conveying merchandise across deserts with great patience, 
and do not overlook the claims of the bison upon the hunter 
who eats him. Others, again, like the rhinoceros and hippo- 
potamus, do not, so far as the poets know, contribute directly 
to the comfort of humanity, nor do they attack man. They 
are addressed therefore not only without acrimony, but with- 
out sentiment of any kind. Each is a name for a very large 



Some Harmless Beasts. 141 

beast which man by his superior intelligence and strength 
can always overcome when he chooses. 

" His arm can pluck the lion from his prey, 
And hold the horned rhinoceros at bay." 

A conspicuous exception to all the rest, however, is the 
poets' treatment of the deer. It is the dove among the 
beasts. And the hind and the fawn are the turtle-doves. 

But it is evident to me, studying the poets among their 
animals, that very few indeed cared for any one of the 
beasts any further than it assisted them to a simile for 
something human. That this can be justified I easily 
allow ; but at the same time it is a matter for fair surprise 
that pods, when the name of a wild beast suggested to them 
a mental picture of the actual thing in Nature, did not 
enrich their bald references with one or other of the many 
beautiful and picturesque images which are at once con- 
jured up. 

Had I been born a poet, I should never have tired, for 
instance, so it seems to me, of the elephant symbol — 

" The huge elephant, wisest of brutes ! 
O truly wise, with gentle might endowed, 
Though powerful not destructive." 

It is so comprehensive, so intelligent, so versatile. Elephants 
do most things that men do, and a great many besides that 
men cannot. Every one of them is a whole Cleopatra's- 
needle-full of hieroglyphics and significances. They knock 
down the walls of houses with their foreheads and pick 
up pins with their trunks. One elephant bumping against 
another knocks it over, yet elephants have been taught to 
dance on the tight-rope. It seems to have most of the 
virtues in ordinary times of an honest man ; at others it 
develops a depth of cunning malignity that all the Newgate 
calendar cannot match. However, this is not the poets' 
elephant. 



142 The Poets Beasts. 

" Behold the castle-bearing elephant 
That wants no bulk, nor doth his greatness want 
An equal strength. Behold his massy bones 
Like bars of iron ; like congealed stones 
His knotty sinews are ; him have I made, 
And given him natural weapons for his aid. 
High mountains bear his food, the shady boughs 
His cover are, great rivers are his troughs, 
Whose deep carouses would to standers-by 
Seem at a watering to drain Jordan dry. 
What skilful huntsman can with strength outdare him ? 
Or with what engines can a man ensnare him ? " 

So speaks Job Militant ; and after Quarles many poets 
refer to the "elephant endorsed with towers," the "castled 
elephant," the " towered elephant," and so forth, omitting 
to remember how those same swine which they so much 
reproach and ridicule once wrought havoc in the " embattled 
front of elephants proud-turreted." The story is a simple 
one, and better perhaps in the original English. Alexander, 
invading India, was told that elephants were terrified at 
pigs, and finding opposed to him a formidable array of 
" olyphauntes berynge castelles of trees on theyr bakkes 
and knyghtes in ye castelles for ye batayle," the great 
Emathian ordered up a drove of swine to the front of his 
army, and the " jarrynge of ye pygges " upset the olyphauntes 
altogether, for we read that they began "to fie eche one 
and keste down ye castelles and slewe ye knyghtes. By this 
meane Alysaundre had ye vyctorie." 

It is a creature of colossal bulk, yet it is the most gently 
docile of man's servants j indeed, almost of creatures. 

" Calm amidst scenes of havoc, in his own 
Huge strength impregnable, the elephant 
Offended none : but led his quiet life 
Among his old contemporary trees." 

Though of vast strength, it is curiously sensitive to small 
annoyances. It detests the squeaking of mice. Mosquitoes 



So7iie Harmless Beasts. 143 

infuriate it. In the fable, the frog and the ant compel it 
to commit suicide out of sheer misery. Spenser's elephant, 
assailed by an ant, is one of the poet's types of the 
"World's Vanity"— 

" Soone after this I saw an elephant, 
Adorned with bells and bosses gorgeouslie, 
That on his backe did beare (as batteilant) 
A gilden tovvre, which shone exceedinglie ; 
That he himselfe, through foolish vanitie, 
Both for his rich attire, and goodly forme, 
Was puffed up with passing surquedrie, 
And shortly gan all other beasts to scorn e. 
Till that a little ant, a silly worme, 
Into his nostrils creeping, so him pained, 
That, casting down his towres, he did deforme 
Both borrowed pride, and native beautie stained. 
Let, therefore, nought that great is therein glory, 
Sith so small a thing his happines may varie." 

But infinitely more admirable than its mammoth bulk 
(in itself no credit to it), or its strength, so often perverted 
to bad ends, is the character of the elephant's intelligence. 
It is almost human, not because it imitates, but because it 
draws rational deductions and acts upon them. 

To give one illustration only, an original one. An 
elephant, when driven every day from the stables at Agra, 
found his passage inconvenienced by a post standing up in 
the path. To this post a monkey was chained, and the 
elephant and the monkey were good friends. But one 
day, on coming out as usual, Behemoth found Pug gone, 
and, concluding that the tiresome post was of no further 
use, wrenched it up and passed on comfortably. Now, so 
long as the monkey was chained to the post the elephant 
recognised its utility, and accepted without complaint the 
inconvenience it caused him. But as soon as the reason 
for the post ceased to be obvious he removed the obstruc- 
tion. 



144 The Poets Beasts. 

This intelligence makes the giant a very valuable ally of 
man ; for once it recognises that its driver is a careful and 
trustworthy person, it abandons its natural timidity and 
develops an extraordinary sense of discipline. But if the 
driver is changed, the next man has to satisfy the elephant 
as to his moral character and personal reliability ab initio. 
Elephants take nothing on trust — except the pitfalls with 
which Thomson s Asiatics and Somerville's Africans " mine 
with cruel avarice his steps." 

" And now the treach'rous turf 
Trembling gives way, and the unwieldy beast, 
Self-sinking, drops into the gulf profound." 

This splendid beast is one of the few indisputable relics 
of the epoch of giants, the last survivor of the mastodons 
and mammoths that the sons of Noah hunted. In Jean 
Ingelow's poem, the wife of " the world's great shipwright " 
has allowed the lads, our progenitors, to go out mammoth- 
hunting, and is anxious about them — 

" For they are young. Their slaves are few, 
The giant elephants be cunning folk ; 
They lie in ambush, and will draw men on 
To follow — then will turn and tread them down." 

And I think, too, there is something very striking in the 
fact of the elephant being gregarious in death. They lay 
their bones in the vaults of their ancestors, and socially 
defer to the solemnity of the rites of sepulture. 

In eastern warfare it is still to this day as conspicuous 
as when (in Somerville) — 

'• High upon his throne, 
Borne on the back of his proud elephant, 
Sate the great chief of Timur's glorious race ; 
Sublime he sate amid the radiant blaze 
Of gems and gold ;" 

for the elephant can carry loads over places impracticable 



Some Harmless Beasts. 145 

for wheels, but it is no longer the " castelle " whence war- 
riors fight, though it carries the standards of princes in 
front of their hosts, and is the rallying-point and centre for 
the fiercest conflicts. 

" From the dread front of ancient war 
Less terror frowned ; her scythed car, 
Her castled elephant and batt'ring beam, 
Stoop to those engines which deny 
Superior terrors to the sky, 
And boast their clouds, their thunder, and their flame." 

But of itself it takes no part in war, no longer 

" rages 'mid the mortal fray, 
the madness of mankind." 

In man's warfare against wild beasts it still, however, 
retains all the importance of the olden time when the 
Moguls went out against the striped terror of the jungles, 
and 

" high upon his throne, ' 
ne on the back of his proud elephant, 
Sate the great chief of Timur's giorious race." 

Of all animals it is the most majestic figure in Oriental 
mythology. The gods loved the colossal brute, but by- 
and-by, when Vishnu had warred with Indra, it became 
an object of fear to the Celestials. Then came forth the 
vulture-god to fight with the elephant. It is the Atlas of 
Hindostan, an elephant standing at each corner of the earth 
— what a noble image ! As the symbol of strength it was 
among the honorific titles of the greatest emperors, and the 
supreme significance in their architecture. As the emblem 
of intelligence the gods of India wear its head. The state- 
liness of its walk gives the invariable simile of grace with 
dignity to the poets of the East. In its gloomy bulk 
mythology sees the steed of the pluvial god, the Rain-cloud. 
So Keats nobly beheld it — 

K 



146 The Poets Beasts. 

" Up-piled 
The cloudy rack slow journeying in the west 
Like herded elephants." 

The white elephant — curiously enough a " demoniacal " 
form of the animal in Vedic myth — meets with only humo- 
rous reference as a monstrous monstrosity, though the im- 
mense dignities of this beast from time immemorial should 
perhaps have invested it with a somewhat mysterious dignity. 
Morris, however, has " huge elephants, snow-white, with 
gilded tusks." " The elephant," or " the lord of elephants," 
is a distinction proudly assumed by many rajahs ; but " the 
white elephant," or " the lord of the white elephant," only 
by the premier prince of Hindostan or a sovereign. Then, 
too, that white elephant of Vedic myth who malignantly 
hunts the hermits up and down the hills of India, allowing 
them no leisure for meditation on their travels, who is the 
mortal enemy of Jatayus the bird-god, the adversary in 
eternal conflict of the tortoise and afterwards of Garuda, 
the eagle-deity, but whose ultimate ruin, as already foretold 
in legend, will be wrought by a sparrow — what a delightful 
personage he is ! 

Elephant sagacity is of course notorious — 

" The huge elephant, wisest of brutes ! 
O truly wise, with gentle might endowed 
Though powerful." 

"Take from the elephant instruction wise," says Cun- 
ningham ; " the wise and fearless elephant " (Shelley), and 
so on with many others. Its great age is hardly less widely 
accepted — 

" As though lie drank from Indian floods 
Life in a renovating stream ; 
Ages o'er him have come and fled, 
'Midst generations of the dead 
His bulk survives." 



Some Harmless Beasts. 147 

Thomson, Montgomery, and Drayton, all, curiously enough, 
like to think of it as coeval with the trees among which it 
lives — "its old contemporary trees." Equally familiar is 
the fiction of the elephant sleeping standing, in consequence 
of its having no joints in its legs — as thus, in Swift and 
Herbert — 

" For elephants ne'er bend the knee." 
" Most things sleep lying ; the elephant leans or stands." 

Montgomery also has — 

" The palm which he was wont to make 
His prop in siumber." 

Another agreeable fiction is the hereditary feud which 
the elephant maintains against its neighbour the rhinoceros. 
Says Adam (in Cowper) — 

" Behold that dusky beast 
That with white tusks of an enormous size extends its weighty jr.w ; 
That now forgetting to revere the moon, 
Intractable, r erocious, beyond its native temper, 
Rushes in anger with its fibrous trunk that serves it for a nose, 
Against the horn which the rhinoceros sharpens of hardest stone." 

Was ever greater nonsense given to the world before as 
poetry? Cowper knew something about hares' rumps, but 
nothing about rhinoceros' horns or elephants' noses. And 
imagine Adam, who was a thorough naturalist not only by 
inspiration but personal observation, talking in such slip- 
shod manner about a beast he knew so well — presuming it 
to have existed. And the suspicion of plagiarism is added 
to the absurdity by reading in Glover how — 

" In the wastes of India, while the earth 
Beneath him groans, the elephant is seen 
His huge proboscis writhing, to defy 
The strong rhinoceros, whose pond'rous horn • 
Is newly whetted on a rock."' l 

1 Pliny -ay=, on an agate, hence this frequent error. 



1 4S TJie Poets Beasts. 

It was evidently a moot point with the poets whether the 
elephant or the rhinoceros were the better in open lists. As 
a rule, they are merely seen (as in Glover's poem) at the 
opening of the duel — 

" Anon each hideous bulk encounters. 
* * * Earth her groan 
Redoubles. Trembling from their coverts fly 
The savage inmates of surrounding woods, 
In distant terror." 

Dryden, however, decides against the rhinoceros (the 
female), calling the elephant "her unequal foe;" and so 
does Lovelace, who makes it die "under his castle-enemy." 
Cowper, on the other hand, and Darwin, make the rhino- 
ceros the better of the two. 

'• Go, stately lion, go ! and thou with scales impenetrable armed, 
Rhinoceros, whose pride can strike to earth the unconquered 
elephant." 

Their tone is generally very respectful to the rhinoceros — 
" the horned rhinoceros," "the armed rhinoceros," "the 
mailed rhinoceros that of nothing recks;" — but what does 
Johnson mean by saying, " He speaks to men with a rhino- 
ceros nose " (" which he thinks great ") ; or Moore by 
" rhinoceros' ivory ? " 

Yet the rhinoceros in its simple, secluded, harmless life 
might have afforded an occasional illustration of strength 
not abused, of a dignified retirement, of magnificent soli- 
tude. The ponderous hermit slowly crashing its way 
through the cane-brakes is a striking figure, and I like to 
think of it — the solitary rhinoceros, tranquilly wading along 
the river's edge, with no companions larger than the otter 
that watches it from mid-stream, the little reed-birds swing- 
ing on the flags, and the small white egrets catching the frogs 
which the giant's progress startles out from the ooze. 

Hippopotamus is not an accommodating word for a verse, 



Some Harmless Beasts. 149 

and when it is referred to it is as " Behemoth," or " river- 
horse." It then becomes "Job's beast," "scaled," and 
" spouting," and, therefore, more or less fabulous or more 
or less mixed up with crocodiles and whales. Montgomery, 
however, gallantly takes the whole name into a line, and for 
his isolated courage, in spite of his absurd misrepresen- 
tation of the comfortably-browsing pachyderm, deserves 
quotation — 

" The hippopotamus amidst the flood, 

Fiexile and active as the smallest swimmer, 

But on the bank ill-balanced and infirm ; 

He grazed the herbage with huge head decline ', 

- Or leaned to rest against some ancient tree." 

But I confess that the river-horse has less significance than 
many animals. There is much, of course, that is pleasant 
enough in the manner of its life — its lazy lounging existence 
in warm streams, its circumstances of perpetual plenty, its 
innocent pastimes when undisturbed, its helpless ferocity 
when attacked. But, except as living a slothful and appa- 
rently useless life under conditions of unalloyed hippopota- 
mus-happiness, as a symbol for pure, feral enjoyment in 
its utmost expression, this monstrous grotesqueness — as if 
from some " great chronicle of Pantagruel " — this familiar 
of old Nile in his cradle, has little significance. 

As Behemoth it is a delightful fiction, but in its actual 
carnal bulk it is only a hippopotamus. The Rabbins said 
that there were never more than two Behemoths at a time 
in the world. They inferred this from the compassionate 
goodness of the Almighty. For if there were to be more 
than two at a time, they doubted if the whole earth could 
provide them sufficient sustenance. It is a pity in one way 
that the day of beliefs in unique existences is past ; for 
what zest it would have lent to travel and sport if there had 
been a possibility of meeting with the pair of hippopotami, 
the phcenix, or the one and only unicorn ! 



150 The Pods Beasts. 

Nor does Montgomery hesitate at the giraffe (though he 
has to make the second syllable short x ). But the very few 
others who refer to the animal prefer to call it "the camel- 
opard." Hood has a sportive ode to the "great anti- 
climax" as he calls the animal, "so very lofty in its front, 
but so dwindling at the tail ; " but he does not exhaust, or 
even tap, the potentialities of fun which the giraffe suggests : 
<: For this sky-raking animal, that passes all its life, so to 
speak, looking out of a fourth-storey window, that looks 
down into the birds' nests as it browses, and seldom sees the 
ground except when it lies down on it, is about the best 
instalment of the impossible that has been vouchsafed 
to us." 2 

With the camel, one of the most provoking, discontented 
animals in the world, the poets express a very pleasing 
sympathy; and Byron in his phrase, "the patient swiftness 
of the desert ship," sums up compendiously three of the 
reasons for the poets' tenderness; while, if we add Thomson's 
" patient of thirst and toil, son of the desert," we have them 
all four. Its extreme patience and extraordinary swiftness 
are two proverbial, and erroneous, attributes of " the bunch- 
back camel" — as Quarles (adopting Isaiah's epithet) calls it 
— while the voyaging of the " helmless dromedary " (Byron) 
over the sandy oceans of the desert and its supposed inde- 
pendence of wells naturally commend it to poetical fancy. 

But here is the camel to the life, in Jean Ingelow — 

" The Red Sahara in an angry glow 

With amber fogs, across its hollows trailed 
Long strings of camels, gloomy eyed and slow, 

And women on their necks, from gazers veiled. 
And sun-swart guides who toil across the sand 
To groves of date-trees on the watered land." 

1 " From rude Caffraria where the giraffes browse 

With stately heads among the forest boughs." — U\st Indies. 

- " Noah's Ark."— Phil A 



Some Harmless Beasts. 151 

Here and there besides are pleasant touches of camel life 
—and what a poem the beast really is ! — " the tinkling 
throng of laden camels," " the browsing camels' tinkling 
bells"— 

" 'Neath palm trees' shade 
Amid their camels laid 
The pastoral tribes with all their flocks at rest." 

But, as a rule, the poets' attention is unfortunately turned 
to those aspects of the camel which are now known to be 
fictions. Leyden matches it against "the swiftest courser," 
and Heber and Sir William Jones, both of whom should 
have known better, compare the camel with the ostrich for 
speed — " the camels bounded o'er the flowery lawn like the 
swift ostrich "—and make it even excel it — " not the ostrich 
speed of fire my camel can excel." As a matter of fact, 
and in spite of its having carried Mahomet in four jumps - 
from Jerusalem to Mecca, seven miles an hour is the 
camel's best pace, nor can it maintain this rate over three 
hours. Its usual speed is about five miles an hour— a 
slow, lounging pace beyond which it is dangerous, with 
nine camels out of ten, to urge them, or else, as Asiatics 
say, they " break their hearts " and die on the spot. For, 
once a camel has been pressed beyond this speed and is 
spent, it kneels down, and not all the wolves of Asia will 
make it budge again. The camel remains where it kneels, 
and where it kneels it dies. 

And this stubbornness is really what the poets call 
"patience." An Oriental proverb says that "the camel « 
curses its parents when it has to go up hill, and its Maker - 
when it has to go down," and "camelishness " is a term of 
abuse for one who is obstinate past all reasoning. As a 
matter of fact the camel is one of the most impatient brutes 
in existence ; it will remain motionless as long as you per- 
mit it to do so, or till hunger arouses it. But remaining 



152 The Poets Beasts. 

motionless is just what camels like. Once begin to load 
them, and the camel grumbles and roars as if its vitals were 
being wrenched out. " So habitual is this conduct that if 
a kneeling camel be only approached, and a stone as large 
as a walnut laid on its back, it begins to remonstrate, groan- 
ing as if it were being crushed to the earth with its load." 1 
"We have all been to Egypt or Syria, and many of us have 
been bitten by his long front teeth, trampled over by his 
noiseless feet, deafened by his angry roar, and insulted by 
the affected, not to say sanctimonious, iournure.oihJs head 
and neck and the protrusion of his contemptuous upper 
lip. No one who thus knows him at home retains a spark 
of belief in the beast's patience, amiability, fidelity, or any 
other virtue. The camel must be reckoned among the 
lost illusions of youth ! " 2 

Urge it to get up on to its legs, and it remonstrates voci- 
ferously ; but once get it going, with the string through its 
nose tied to the tail of the camel in front of it, and it will 
keep on going just as long as the one in front of it keeps 
on pulling its nose. But the moment one camel in a line 
stops, they all stop. There is " patience " of course in this 
perpetual plodding, but, so far from being admirable, it 
used to exasperate the British soldier, both in Afghanistan 
and Egypt, into the most ludicrous paroxysms of indigna- 
tion. The brutes moved like machines, at a regulated rate 
of motion, and not one step would they take faster than 
another. To the bewilderment of Tommy Atkins, they 
paid no attention whatever to sticks ; but suddenly, as if it 
had made up its mind that life was not worth more trouble, 
a camel would come down on its knees with a thump — 
and there remain. The gap would be made good, the file 
pass on, and the su.king camel be left where it had knelt, 
with its head upheld superciliously in the air and gazing 

1 " Bible Animals," Rev. J. G. Wood. 
• " False Beasts and True.'" 



Some Harmless Beasts. 153 

vacantly into distant space. And there it would patiently 
starve to death. It was no use taking off its load ; the camel 
had refused to " hold the fort " any longer, and, persisting 
in thinking life impossible, insisted on dying. 

Nor, unfortunately for poetry, does the camel's abstinence 
from water hold quite good in fact. It is one of the 
thirstiest of animals, and ought not to be allowed to go 
without water for any length of time, if it is expected to be 
of any use. In this respect a horse has more endurance. 
But Nature has provided the camel with an arrangement of ' 
cells in the stomach which it can fill with water if it pleases. 

" Unwearied as the camel, day by day, 

Tracks through unwatered wilds his doleful way, 
Yet in his breast the cherished draught retains, 
To cool the fervid current in his veins." 

But if Montgomery had often ridden camels, he would 

have wondered why the brute did not drink some of the 

cherished draught sometimes, instead of wanting to re- 
plenish itself at every possible opportunity. 

" The all-enduring camel, driven 

Far from the diamond fountain by the palms, 
Who toils across the middle moonlit nights, 
Or when the white heats of the blinding noons 
Beat from the concave sand, yet in him keeps 
A draught of that sweet fountain that he loves, 
To stay his feet from falling, and his spirit 
From bitterness of death." 

Keats carries the idea one stage further, and has "slake 
my greedy thirst with nectarous camel-draughts" — an ad- 
missible prolongation of the original, inasmuch as it conveys 
to the mind an immediate consciousness of the extreme 
aridity of deserts — " long, long deserts scorch the camel's 
foot " — and the terrible drought from which the camel has 
so often, poor beast, to suffer. 



1 5 4 The Poets' Beasts. 

" Even the camel feels, 
Shot through his withered heart, the fiery I 

But it will hardly be believed that the " ship of the desert " 
takes an immoral advantage of this kindly arrangement to 
enjoy the deplorable pleasures of illicit tippling. Yet such 
is said to be the sad fact, for the date juice (so it is stated) 
sometimes finds its way into these water cavities, lies there, 
and ferments ; so that while every one is admiring the camel 
as such a prodigious teetotaller, the Bedouin quadruped has 
really got a spirit-cask inside it instead of a water-butt. 

In spite, however, of this grievous falling away from Islam, 
the camel receives extraordinary honour from the Faithful. 
Are not the names of Al Kaswa and Al Ad'na, the camels 
of Mahomet, as sacred to the Arab as those of any of the 
nine wives of the Prophet ? And has not Mahomet pro- 
mised the camel all the enjoyments of Paradise — which no 
other animals share with it except Al Borak, the Prophet's 
horse, and Ketura, the Dog of the Seven Sleepers, Tobit's 
dog, Balaam's ass, and the cuckoo ? When it carries the 
sacred cloth to Mecca in the annual pageant-pilgrimage of 
Al Sherif, what man in all the caravan has such honour of 
Islam as the camel that bears the musnud ? Had it not 
been for a camel would Zem-Zem ever have been found, 
and without Zem-Zem would man have ever attained to 
Paradise ? 

One poet speaks of its "ear attentive," though the camel's 
ear is certainly not a " feature " of the animal. Its hearing 
is dull — though it is not so deaf but that it stops when it 
hears no voices — and the ears themselves are so small that 
the Arabs have a legend to account for it. Once, they say, 
it had long ears and asked Allah for horns to match them, 
but Allah in reply cropped its ears. 

Spenser has Avarice riding on a camel, and elsewhere 
speaks of it as "simple" and the victim of carnivorous 
ferocity, the tiger and — the boar ! 



Sonic Harmless Beasts. 155 

This idea is of course borrowed from fable, in which the 
camel often falls a victim to the superior astuteness of the 
boar, wolf, fox, and other animals. 

As a remote kind of beast that does not concern the 
poets, the bison, or buffalo, finds little recognition. Jean 
Ingelow is a very notable exception, and uses the headlong 
herd very finely on two occasions — 

" Raging up like doom 
The dangerous dust-cloud that was full of eyes — 
The bisons ; " 

and again — 

" The mad 
Masterful tramping of the bison herds 
Tearing down headlong, with their bloodshot eyes 
In savage rifts of hair." 

Byron pays it the compliment of "stately,'' and describes 
it tossing about, as it were a mere pastime, the pack of wolves 
that have attacked it. And here and there we meet with the 
casual bison careering ; while Leyden has a Scotch bison 
not known to these degenerate days, " whose bounding 
course outstripped the red deer's speed," who shook a 
"yellow lion-mane" and "tossed his moony horns around." 
This beast appears to have been slain in mad charge by 
"the chief from whom their line the Turnbulls drew," and 
it left, unfortunately, no posterity. 

" Bold was the chief from whom their line they drew, 
Whose nervous arm the furious bison slew. 
The bison, fiercest race of Scotia's breed, 
Whose bounding course outstripped the red deer's speed. 
By hunters chafed, encircled on the plain, 
He, fuming, shook his yellow iion-mane, 
Spurned, with black hoof, in bursting rage, the ground, 
And fiercely tossed his moony horns around. 
On Scotia's lord he rushed, with lightning speed 
Bent his strong neck, to toss the startled steed. 



155 The Poets Beasts. 

His arms robust the hardy hunter flung, 
And rolled the panting monster on the ground. 
Crushed, with enormous strength, his bony skull : 
And courtiers hailed the man who turned the bull." 

But, as a rule, it is the American bison of which the 
poets treat — not the reem, 1 the extinct Urus, of which the 
Bible speaks, and which (according to legend) had to be 
towed behind the Ark, as its horns would not allow it to 
get in by the door. Asks Young in his paraphrase — 

" Will the tall reem which knows no lord but me 
Low at the crib and ask an alms of thee? 
Submit his unworn shoulder to the yoke, 
Ereak the stiff clod, and o'er thy furrow smoke ? T ' 

Not the magnificent gaur of Asia, that the natives say 
takes up stones with its nostrils and discharges them at 
its assailants with the force of a musket-ball ! — nor the 
great Arna of the wondrous horns that ramps at large in the 
swampy jheels of Bhutan, charges the elephant whenever 
it meets it, and lords it over the dense marshy thickets 
bristling with canes and wild rose, nor its African congener 
of equally terrible armament, but the animal that the Red 
Indian knows so well, and with which his whole life was 
at one time bound up : the bison that has been called 
the true pioneer of Western America, and, once " spread 
o'er the vast savannah, ranged masterless" is now being 
fast exterminated by the amazing progress of the New 
World— 

" In these plains 
The bison feeds no more. Twice twenty leagues 
Beyond remotest smoke of hunters' camp, 
Roams the majestic brute in herds that shake 
The earth." 

But the bison is an animal of extraordinary picturesque- 
1 Mentioned by Drayton and Young. 



Some Harmless Beasts. 157 

ness, and round it gather centuries of the history of the 
nations of the red men. 

Kangaroos are not poetical beasts in the poets' sense, 
and except, therefore, when they are made fun of, as in 
Hood's verses, receive no attention — 

' ' A pair of married kangaroos 

(The case is oft a human one too) 
Were greatly puzzled once to choose 

A trade to put their eldest son to. 
It came — no thought was ever brighter — 

In weighing every why and whether 
They jumped upon it both together, 

Let's make the imp a shorthand writer." 

Lovelace refers to them vaguely as "cubs of India," and, 
addressing the snail, says that, like them — 

"Thou from thyself a while dost play, s 
But, frighted by a dog or gun, 
In thine own belly thou dost run ; " 

which is a delightful confusion of epitaphs. 

Some score of allusions to the beaver are to be found 
in the pcets, but they present nothing of interest. As a 
"furry nation" and "fur-bearing," also as supposed to 
furnish a perfume, they are benignly treated, for conducing 
to the best of their small abilities to the welfare of lordly 
humanity, But, so far as the poets are concerned, they are 
things of prodigious solitude " where earth's unliving silence 
all would seem, save where on rocks the beaver built his 
dome " — a passage characteristic of blundering Campbell 
— and the comrade in Mackay's " Arctic Regions " of 
" the white wolf that howls to the moon." Dyer, too, has 
some delightful nonsense about it. 

In Darwin, however, it is the "half-reasoning" beaver, 
and Drayton preserves the following very interesting fact of 
British natural history in his quaint rhyme — 



1 5S The Poets Beasts. 

" More famous long agone, than for the salmons leape, 
For bevers Tivy was, 1 in her strong banks that bred 
What else no other brooke of Briiaine nourished ; 
Where nature, in the shape of this now-perisht beast. 
His propertie did seeme t' have woundrouslie expro: ; 
Being bodied like a boat, with such a mightie taile, 
As serv'u him for a bridge, a helme, or for a saile." 

Several poets give the ermine a place. 

" I will disdain, and from your proffers fly, 
As from vile dirt the snowy ermine." 

Cowper here refers to a pretty fiction, still current, I find, 
about this little creature, to the effect that it detests contact 
with any impurity. 

There are some ants, which Sir John Lubbock knows all 
about, that hate untidiness and " messes " so much, that if 
you throw rubbish over their nests they all decamp pre- 
cipitately. They absolutely refuse to live in a parish where 
sanitation is not properly attended to. But the ermine 
carries its aversion even further than this, for it prefers 
death to dirt. 

" Better to die than be sullied." 

This was the motto on the ermine-device borne by kings 
of Naples and of Castille. There was also a Breton " Order 
of the Ermine," with the same legend, and the device was 
adopted by " La Reine Duchesse," Anne of Brittany, wife 
of Charles VIII., and afterwards of Louis XII. These 
words, " Plutot mourir que souiller" or " Malo mori quam 
fadari? in the original, allude to the fancy that if an ermine 
be encircled with mud it will fastidiously prefer capture 
to crossing the dirty barrier. " It is of so pure a nature 
that it will choose rather to be taken than defile its skin."' 
Trappers, therefore, were supposed to take advantage of 
this suicidal cleanliness, and build walls of dirt round the 
ermines, and so catch them; but, it might well be adtic i. 

1 " Inter fhivios Cambria . . solus hie [Teivi] castores habct." 



Some Harmless B:asfs. 159 

11 the wiser and older hunters preferred putting salt on the 
ermines' tails. 1 ' 

However, the superstition greatly enhanced this dainty 
little animal's unsullied reputation. Thus Marvel makes 
the small exquisite one of the creatures of Paradise — 

" In fair Elysium to endure, 
With milk-white lambs and ermines pure ; " 

while in the present world it has been selected as the most 
befitting emblem of sovereignty — 

" Whose honour, ermine-like, can never suffer 
Spot or black soil." 

So the robes of royal and noble personages are lined with 
this fur, "to signify," says the author of" Historic Devices,"' 
"the internal purity that should regulate their conduct." 

At one time it was the only fur represented on coats of- 
arms, and was the natural white, with black tail-points — 

" Tipped with jet, 
Fair ermines, spotless as the snows they press. ' 

But afterwards, like every other object in Nature, it wan- 
dered into varieties — " counter-ermine," which was black, 
with white tail-tips ; " erminois," gold, with black points ; 
and "erminite," white, with black points edged with red. 

A special interest attaches to the whimsical exaltation 
of this elegant creature, as the ermine is really — under a 
climatic variation of fur — only the stoat, which is as guileful, 
stealthy, and wicked a little assassin as ever ran on four legs. 

Vet, we ask, "What's in a name?" 

Just as the hedgehog is reproached for having " thorns " 
on its back, so the porcupine for wearing quills. Its mythi- 
cal power of shooting its quills at assailants is accepted. 
Thus "like porcupine she sends a piercing dart" (Jen\ 
and "more dangerous than porcupine his quill" (Somer- 
ville). 



160 The Poets Beasts. 

" Fretful " is an excellent epithet for the porcupine. Yet 
I cannot help thinking that in the Ghost's speech " fretted : ' 
would perhaps have been better. For though it is perfectly 
true that the former characterises the animal's disposition to 
take offence quickly, the latter would have assisted out the 
spectre's meaning. " Each particular hair on your head," 
he would then have said, " would stand on end with horror, 
like the quills uj.on the porcupine when he is out of temper." 
As it is, he seems to imply that the animal's quills are always 
standing on end — which is not strictly true. Now Milton 
has the line, " Chafed wild boar or ruffled porcupine : " 
and "ruffled" is admirable, inasmuch as it conveys two 
facts in one word — the agitation both of body and mind. 

The occurrence of this beast in another poet, also con- 
joined with the boar, is perhaps noteworthy, as in myth 
the porcupine is a vague sort of animal, occupying a place 
somewhere between the boar and the hedgehog. In the 
" Dragon of Wantley " we have the other association pre- 
sented to us — its hedgehog side — 

" Had you but seen him in this dre?s, 
How fierce he looked and how big, 
You would have thought him for to be 
Some Egyptian porcupig. 
He frighted all, cats, dog>, and all, 
Each cow, each horse, and each hog ; 
F r fear they did flee, for they took him to be 
Some strange outlandish hedgehog." 

Yet the poets — three at any rate — employ the metaphor in 
regard to woman. Thus Cowley, singing of Beauty, says — 

"They are all weapons, and they dart 
Like porcupines from every part." 

And Byron has — 

" Those cur = e i p : ns, 
Which surely were invented for our sin?, 
Making a woman like a porcupine, 
Not to be rashly touched." 



Some Harmless Beasts. 1 6 1 

Qui s'v frctti sy pique was the legend on Charles the • 
Bold's device of a porcupine. Another heraldic whim about 
this animal, and one that might have attracted the poets, is 
the Colonna's motto of Dccus et tutamen in armis, wherein 
is contained a wholesome moral both for individuals and 
nations, and a practical fact, of which the porcupine is 
most thoroughly well aware. 

The reference in Cowley's lines, quoted above, to the 
"darting," is an allusion, of course, to the fiction — a very 
ancient one— that the porcupine can shoot its quills like 
arrows. When the animal charges an enemy — which it 
does back-cards, by the way — it often, no doubt, leaves a 
quill or two sticking. A!so, when the skin is contracted for 
the erection of the quiils, a loose one may. no doubt, some- 
times fall out ; and seeing how sudden and violent the 
muscular action is, it is not inconceivable that such a 
loosened quill might seem to be " shot " off. But there is - 
no capacity for deliberate archery in the beast. It is not 
so deficient in sagacity as to fire its weapons away. 

I find in Mrs. Bury Paliisers fascinating volume the 
following passage : — 

" In 1397, Louis. Duke of Orleans, instituted the Order 
of the Porcupine, and on the occasion of the baptism of 
his son Charles he took this animal as his emblem, with 
the motto ' Near and Afar,' alluding to the vulgar error 
that the porcupine is able not only to defend itself from 
close attack, but can throw its quills against more disfc 
assailants, Duke Louis meaning thereby to convey that he 
would defend himself with his own weapons, and that he 
would attack his enemy. John, Duke of Burgundy, as well 
at a distance as near. Louis XII. abolished the Order 
after his ascension to the throne, but retained the hereditary 
badge of his family, and took two porcupines for the sup- 
porters of his arms. His cannons were marked with the 
porcupine, and his golden ' ecus au pore-epic ' were much 

L 



1 62 The Poets Beasts. 

sought after by the curio'is.'' To this is added a note : 
" On the submission of Paris, in 1436, the Constable, 
Richemont, goes to dine at the Duke of Orleans' Hotel 
du Fore-epic, and in 1438 the Order was conferred on a 
lady, Mdile. de Murat" 

From the French name, of course, comes our own word, 
porcupig. 

There are few passages in Nature more beautiful through- 
out than the deer poem. Whether we see them as the 
" playmate fawns," the " gentle hinds." or the " noble st. g 
they are equally poetical and lovable. No wonder, then, 
that so exquisite a theme attracts poets. 

Every period of life, indeed almost every action, of these 
dainty creatures affords a beauty to their verse, and the 
appreciation of the surpassing charm of deer as they really 
are in nature seems to have so completely contented the 
poets, that they pay little attention to the legendary animal, 
do not care to seek for metaphors or similes from them, 
and do not venture to let improving imagination meddle 
with a picture already so complete. 

No epithet or phrase that conveys a compliment 
seems misapplied to creatures that can never be ungraceful 
or unpicturesque. The light-stepping deer, the rustling 
deer in the thickets, the tread of the fawn, the hind's soft 
eyes of love — even the most commonplace phrases, if the 
word " deer " occur in them — receive a gentle grace from 
the association. 

The dainty and delicate fawn, confiding and yet so timid, is 
indeed one of the sweetest touches of Nature, and the poets 
take a delight in leading it out to play upon lawns begemmed 
with dewdrops, to drink at babbling brooks, and fall asleep 
in beds of fern and moss. Nor less the hind with its large 
soft eyes, the gentle, careful mother of "the dappled fawn." 
It is perpetually recurring as an image of tranquil innocence. 

Very often, of course, it is hunted, or its fawn killed, and 



Some Harm less Beasts. 163 

the grief of the hind then ranks with the poets only second 
to that of the " turt'.e-dove " when similarly afflicted. But 
no amount of sympathy seems excessive for the loss of 
such offspring by such a parent. 

In all circumstances of life, therefore, the deer is pictur- 
esque, whether "crushing the heath-bells as they tread" 
the mountain side, or in the hollows, " belling from ferny 
bed " (Faber). The poet— 

" Sunk deep in fern marks the stealthy roe, 
Silent as sleep or shadow, cross the glade, 
Or dart athwart his view as August stars 
Shoot and are out." 

At rest, when "the summer sun shines on the trees, and 
the deer lie in the shade '"' (Mary Howitt) ; or when, " in 
summer's moonlight, the gentle deer lie sleeping;" 

" The gentle deer lie sleeping in the moon, 
With their own fairy shadows at their side " (Faber) ; 

or (Grahame) "in ruminating peace, the fallow deer, a 
grove of antlers." 

In the daytime, under the elms, " in herds, the troubled 
deer shake the still-twinkling tail and glancing ear ! ' (Words- 
worth), or "couched on the close sward, while ears and 
antlers in the grass with restless movement twinkle " 
(Faber). So Bloomfield has " with rattling horns and 
twinkling ears." 

The solitary stag quenching his thirst at noon ; the hind 
leading her fawn in the evening to the stream : the whole 
herd pacing out from the tree-shadows to drink ; the stag, 
starting to run, " proudly tossing his antlered head." 

Cowper's quiet park, " haunt of deer, and sheep-walks 
populous with bleating lambs ; " Mackay"s " nooks where 
the shy deer browse the bent ; " Thomson's forest glade 
where the wild deer trip and, often turning, gaze ; Camp- 
bell's birchen glades, with the deer " glancing in the sun- 



164 The Poets Beasts. 

shine." Its grace when first aroused, its haughty flight, its 
courage when it stands "with hornie bayonnettes at bay" — 

"The chase is up — but they shall know 
The stag at bay's a desperate foe " — 

are all insisted upon again and again, and the wood-nymphs 
and the fairies are for ever being called in to help the 
hunted favourite. 

Its horns — " the stag's large front," as Thomson curiously 
calls it, or as Denham, with more enthusiasm — 

" On whose sublime and shady front is reared 
Nature's great masterpiece " — 

give the stag that unusual stateliness of gait which is fami- 
liar to all, and which the poets are never tired of admiring. 
" Stately as a deer with antlers " is Longfellow's simile for 
surpassing dignity of bearing. They note its growth and 
renewal, always introduce the antlers in the foremost pas- 
sage of the description ; and on this point the deer's sup- 
posed regret at having so " heavy a head " when hunted, 
they give fancy play. 

Shedding its horns, or, as Surrey says, "hanging his old 
head on the pale " — unantlered ; " flying to the wood to 
hide his armless head" (Marvell) — rehorned, "gracefully 
pacing, the wild-eyed harts, to their traditional tree, to 
clear the velvet from their budded horns " (Jean Ingelow) 
— we meet it in every stage. 

Nor do the poets fail to do full justice to that striking epi- 
sode of the deer's closing life, its retirement into solitude to 
die — " as the stricken deer withdraws himself alone " — " so 
the struck deer in some sequestered part lies down to die " 
— " I was a stricken deer that left the herd, long since " 
(Cowper). 

" So wings the wounded deer her flight, 
Pierced by some ambushed archer of the night, 



Some Harmless Beasts. 165 

Shoots to the woodlands with her bounding fawn, 

And drops of blood bedew the conscious lawn ; 

There hid in shades she shuns the cheerful day, 

Hangs o'er her young and weeps her life away." 1 — Darwin. 

Nor are the poets unaware of the real reason for this 
retirement — namely, the instinct of the herd to drive away 
from their company any individual that is crippled or in- 
firm, as being a source of common danger. The limping 
comrade might bring the huntsman on its heels, upon the 
whole herd at rest, and the forester coming upon a sick 
deer would know that the rest of the antlers were not 
far off. 

This selfishness is carried to a cruel extreme when deer, 
seeing one of their number in distress, refuse him asylum ; 
and the habit of the herd to repulse a member when in 
danger is noted by Leyden and by Thomson — " the watch- 
ful herd alarmed, with selfish care avoid a brother's woe." 
Scott, too, refers to it in — 

" The Douglas like a stricken deer ' 
Disowned by every noble peer." 

Somerville also has of the hunted stag — 

" He mingles with the herd where once he reigned 
Proud monarch of the groves, whose clashing beam 
His rivals awed, and whose exalted power 
Was still rewarded with successful love. 
But the base herd have learned the ways of men — 
Averse they fly, or with rebellious aim 
Chase him from thence." 



1 Pope has — 



" So the struck deer, in some sequestered part, 
Lies down to die (the arrow in his heart) : 
There, hid in shades and wasting day by dny, 
Inly he bleeds and pants his soul away." 



1 66 T/ie Poets Beasts. 

Another peculiarity of the deer kind, their often fatal 
curiosity, finds very frequent notice ; as Spenser's " amazed 
deere ; " Greene's " deer that doat the gaze, mazed dismay- 
fully ; " Shakespeare's " poor, frightened deer that stand at 
gaze ; ; ' Broome's " tinvrous deer, swift starting as they graze, 
bound off in crowds, then turn again to gaze ; " Rogers' 
" with fearful gaze ; " Quarles' " with strange amaze, and 
senseless half, through feare they stand at gaze," and a 
score of others. 

One result of this tenderness for the deer is that deer- 
hunting seldom meets with admiration from the poets. 
With the fox it is very different. Having condemned 
Reynard beforehand, they see no cruelty in the pack of 
hounds that murder the brave little beast, but applaud the 
hunters as if they had overtaken and slain some desperate 
bandit. The crimes of the fox are supposed to have earned 
its death, so it dies unpitied. 

" Not so ihe stately stag, of harmless force, 
In motion graceful, rapid in his course ; 
Nature in vain his lofty head adorns 
With formidable groves of pointed thorn?. 
Soon as the hounds' fierce clamour strikes his ear, 
He throws his arms behind, and owns his fear ; 
Sweeps o'er the imprinted grass, the wind outflies — 
Hounds, horses, hunters, horns, still sound along the skies, 
lie, trembling, safety seeks in every place, 
Drives through the thicket, scales the lofty steep ; 
Bounds o'er the hills, or darts through valleys deep ; 
Plunges amid the river's cooling tides, 
While strong and quick he heaves his panting sides. 
He from afar his loved companions sees, 
Whom the loud whoop that hurtles on the breeze 
Into a crow x firm had cast, 

Their armed heads all outward round them placed. 
To these he flies, and begs to be allowed 
To share the danger with his kindred crowd ; 
But must, by general voice excluded, know 
How loathed the sad society of woe. 



Some Harm Jess Beasts. 167 

The cruel hounds pour round on every hand ; 
Desperate, he turns to make a feeble stand, 
Big tears on tears roll down his harmless fnce ; 
He falls, and sues in vain, alas ! for grace." 

Thomson's imitation of this poem is well worth noting. 
It differs from Leyden's admirable lines chiefly by its errors 
and its lack of force. But he repeats all Leyden's sympathy 
for the stag. 

Drayton, after a passing word of wonder that no poets 
before himself should have sung the chase, 1 invokes Diana, 
and commences to tell in rhyme of the hunting in Arden 
Forest. 

But Drayton, though fired by the sport of the chase, keeps 
his sympathy with the stag. The hunters are "bloody 
hunters," and the hounds are "cruel and ravenous." 
Quarks tells us how the stag's " weeping eyes beg silent 
mercy from the following hounds," and from the chase 
draws this vigorous metaphor — "Before a pack of deep- 
mouthed lusts I flee." 

Grahame, in his " October," has — 

" The clamorous pack rush rapid down the vale, 
\\ hilst o'er yon brushwood tops at times are seen 
The moving branches of the victim stag. 
Soon far beyond he stretches o'er the plain ; 
Oh ! may he safe elude the savage rout, 
And may the woods be left to peace again ! " 

Xor can Scott be charged with want of sympathy for the 
"bold red deer." How he triumphs with the "antlered 
monarch of the waste," that, sleeping in lone Glenartney's 
hazel shade, suddenly awakes to the deep-mouthed blood- 
hounds' heavy bay — 

" Then, as the headmost foes appeared, 

With one brave bound the copse he cleared, 



1 Drayton's memory was at fault. 



i6S The Poets Beasts. 

And, stretching forward free and far, 
Sought the wild heaths of (Jam-TV ! " 

Leyden, as has been seen, is also full of sympathy, but 
confesses to a regret that the stag does not make better use 
of his " formidable grove of pointed thorns ; " as Waller 
also — 

" So the tall stag upon the brink 

Of some smooth stream about to drink, 

Surveying there his aimed head, 

With shame remembers that he fled 

The scorned dog.*, resolves to try 

The combat next. But if their cry 

Invades again his trembling ear, 

He straight resumes his wonted care, 

Leaves the untasted spring behind, 

And, winged with fear, uutfiies the wind." 

Several poets even go so far as to make the stag regret 
its armament as cumbering it in its flight. For instance, 
Davenant — 

'• As deer that mourn their growth of head with tears 
Where the defenceless weight does hinder flight." 

But this is probably only a reminiscence of the familiar story 
of the stag proud of its antlers that met with Absalom's 
fate. 

In other poets besides those who sing specifically of the 
chase, all the details of the deer-hunt " where we did chase 
the fearful hart of force," and all redounding to the honour 
of the quarry — " the frighted roebuck and his flying roe " 
— will be found abundantly scattered. 

Somerville alone is cruel, after his wont. He has a 
wretchedly cruel account of a stag-hunt, in which he follows 
with a detail that seems like gloating over suffering, the 
wretched stag's agonised flight. He compares its terror to 
that of " the poor, fury-hunted wretch (his hands in guiltless 
blood bestained) that still seems to hear the dying shrieks, 



Some Harmless Beasts. 169 

and the pale threatening ghost moves as he moves, and, as 
he flies, pursues." In a burst of sycophant solicitude he 
implores royalty not to go too near the stag even though a 
score of hounds are worrying it ; and when at last the stag 
is at the point of death, and — 

" Beneath the weight of woe he grows distressed, 
The tears run trickling down his hairy cheeks," 

the King " beholds his wretched plight, and tenderness 
innate moves his great soul," and he orders off the pack. 
Upon which the poet — 

" Great Prince ! from thee what may thy subjects hope, 
So kind and so beneficent to brutes, 
O mercy, heav'nly born ! " 

&c. &c. But from reading Somerville it might be imagined 
that he knew nothing of humaneness. 

In legendary allusions both the milk-white doe of fairy- " 
tale and the black roe of Oriental myth, as also .^Esop's ■ 
stag, " a creature blameless, yet something vain," are to be 
found, with here and there an enchanted hind that was 
" hunted to his hurt " by some mythical knight or prince. 
But, as I have said above, the poets seem too well satisfied 
with the deer as it is in Nature to try to assist it to sympathy 
and honour by the adventitious graces of tradition or the 
exercise of a fanciful license. 

Yet deer enjoy remarkable prominence in myth and folk- 
lore. In " elemental " symbolism, they appear as luminous, 
variegated, or dark, according as the sky is ruddy, dappled, 
or lowering, and they drag the chariots of the wind-fiends, 
the spirits of the storm, and are the heralds of the elephant, 
"the hurricane." And in folk-lore, how many a hero both 
of East and West has the magic fawn, the milk-white doe, 
that beautiful but dangerous quarry, or the enchanted hart 
— "a creature that was current then, the hart with golden \ 



170 The Poets Beasts. 

horns " — beguiled into the forest depths to the hunter's 
woe. In our own ballads, momentous disasters sprang 
from "the hunting of the deer." And in semi-sacred 
legends what an important place it holds, the cross-bearing 
stag, the celestial hind. And how European history would 
have been altered if kings had never chased the deer. In 
the East it is even more fateful. Many princes have come 
by their adventures following the deceptive quarry. The 
whole "Ramayana" turns upon the hero being beguiled 
from his leafy hermitage in pursuit of the silver-spotted 
stag. In fact, the deer of myth, whether "stag." "hind," 
"gazelle," or "antelope," is a thing universally desired, but 
almost invariably the cause of perplexity and trouble to its 
pursuer. 

Superstitions about them are very frequent. They are 
captivated by music, as several poets tell us, and when 
wounded — 

" For his secure an herb can find 
The arrow to withdraw." 

Some say this is the " Lancashire asphodel," but others that 
" the hart, wounded with an arrow, runs to the herb dittany 
to bite it, that the shaft may fall out." 1 Every one knows, 
too, that a hart's horn burnt drives all the snakes away from 
the neighbourhood, and that the deer is the most dreaded 
foe of the serpent, for it sucks up the air out of the snake- 
holes, and the snakes cannot help but follow ; and then, 
when the snake appears, the deer eats it like a stalk of 
celery. So if you wear deerskin no snake will ever touch 
you. But deer folk-lore, if it were collected, would be 
found to be prodigious in quantity and traversing half our 
philosophies. Dig deep into the earth under the roots of 
the dread ash Ygdrasil, and you will find four stags on 
the guard there. Look up above you into the sky, and 

1 This healing herb has many pretty legends. 



Some Harmless Beasts. i 7 1 

you will see the deer's head, Orion, glittering in sleepless 
vigil 

Several other species of horned animals share in the 
popularity of the British deer. Thus the "antelope" — a 
vague creature enough in Campbell, Thomson, Moore, and 
Shelley, who make it "snow-white with silver feet" and 
"feeding on lilies" — is used as a type of timid innocence, 
is called "sweet antelope," and affords similes of feminine 
elegance and beauty — 

" Sister-autelopes 
By one fair dam, snow-white, and swift as wind, 
Nursed among lilies near a brimming stream." — Shelley. 

The grace of its neck makes a goddess envious ; the light- 
ness of its step is the despair of nymphs \ its eyes — 

" The lady rising up with such an air 
As Venus rose with from the wave, on them 
Bent, like an antelope, a Paphian pair 
Of eyes," 

and carries off Don Juan into delightful captivity. And no 
wonder that antelopes should attract the poets, for they are 
even swifter and more graceful than the deer. The peculiar 
charm of their movements, their elegant impatience, so airy 
and impulsive, are happily rendered, as in Moore's " fleet 
and eager down the slope, like antelopes the bright nymphs 
bound ; " and " down the slope, the silvery-footed antelope, 
as gracefully and gaily springs," "with light sound;" or 
Shelley's "antelope in the suspended impulse of its light- 
ness;" and "the wild antelope, that starts whene'er the dry 
leaf rustles in the brake, suspends her timid steps to gaze." 
The antelope is one of the constellations of the Indian 
zodiac, sacred to Chandra, and the recognised symbol of 
feminine grace. 

"Gazelle" is nearly synonymous with antelope. "Its 
airy step and glorious eye " find equal favour with Byron, 



172 TJic Pods Beasts. 

and Moore, and Shelley. " Its soft black eye," "large and 
languishingly dark/' "glorious," "now brightly bold or 
beautifully shy," is almost a poetical proverb, and " gazelle- 
eyed " one of their supreme compliments — 

" Her eye's dark charm 'twere vain to tell ; 
But gnze on that of the gazelle, 
It will assist thy fancy w. 

But the poets were wrong to speak of them as going in 
vast herds, or to make them "of many a colour, size, and 
shape," and still more to place their wild gazelles among 
lilies and on " flowery champaigns." In Nature it is beauti- 
fully placed in sandy wastes and amongst the barrenness of 
the wilderness. 1 

Among the later poets the chamois meets with occasional 
reference, as the companion of the eagle in mountain heights 
that "mock the hunters' might," and "baffle the hunters' 
ken." It is the " flying chamois," leaping across "the dark- 
blue crevasse," skipping over "the glaciers bright," an 
emblem of Swiss independence and liberty generally : " shy 
as the jealous chamois, Freedom flies." 

The elk, "in his speed and might," though a vague entity, 
is no doubt that favourhe figure of red man's myth and 
tradition, the mighty animal that in the epoch of the bison 
was one of the noblest trophies of the northern Indians and 
the feast-dish of the braves. Thomson happily depicts the 
elk in one of its picturesque situations — 

" Scarce his head 
Raised o'er the snowy wreath, the branching elk 
Lies slumbering sullen in the white abyss ; " 

and Moore refers to a curious tradition — 



1 Says a great naturalist, " It prefers the bare plain, rocky hill, or 
ua-te, and a barren country to a rich one." 



Some Harmless Beasts. i 7$ 

" In the woods of the North there are insects that prey • 
On the brain of the elk till his very last sigh ; " 

his application thereof being — 

" O genius ! thy patron?, more cruel than they, 
First feed on thy brains and then leave thee to die." 

But I am unable to find any grounds for the poets' facts, at 
any rate in special relation to the elk. 

Another northern "deer" that is occasionally met with 
in verse is the reindeer. Montgomery is specially fond of 
it. Campbell makes it the steed of Winter — 

" Howling Winter fled afar 
To hills that prop the polar star ; 
And loves on deer-borne car to ride 
With barren darkness by his side." 

The gemsbok gives Jean Ingelow the subject of a power- 
ful vignette — 

" Or far into the heat among the sands 

The gemsbok nations, snuffing up the wind, 
Drawn by the scent of water, and the bands 
Of tawny-bearded lions pacing, blind 
With the sun-dazzle in their midst, opprest 
With prey, and spiritless for lack of rest ! " 

And "the brindled gnu" finds also a single reference. 



VII. 

BRITISH WILD BEASTS. 

I remember once, when lying dozing under a tree in a very 
quiet scrap of English woodland, seeing a badger. The 
very suddenness of such an apparition is in itself a delight- 
ful touch of wild nature — for Nature is always sudden in 
these glimpses of her inner life. 

Thus I remember, when in India, waiting for bear or 
leopard to be driven past my post, the spectral visions of 
boar and pea-fowl or fox that would rise up as it were from 
the ground. One instant absolute solitude, and the next, 
and lo ! a great sambhur stag, with all its pride of antlers, 
standing out in the open. It takes two steps and is gone 
again — for ever. Was it ever there at all ? You feel in- 
clined to rub your eyes. A twig snaps. You look up : there 
is nothing. You begin to think of phantoms and Shelley's 
" panther-peopled solitudes." And look ! from opposite 
you steps out a peacock. For half a second you see it with 
all its pomp of trailing brilliance. How it lights up the 
undergrowth ! But on a sudden it turns, and the glittering 
undulating plumes vanish behind a bush, noiseless and 
splendid like a coil of some great burnished snake, and 
once more gloom settles deep on the glade. And so it goes 
on all the time you wait. Sudden and silent things come 
and go, and in each flash you catch a glimpse of Nature's 
self, a peep into her private diary. 



British Wild Beasts. 



I o 



So it was with my English badger. And of all animals 
the "brock" is one of the most suitable for an apparition ; 
for the colouring and the shape of the beast make its whole 
body, when it is facing you, look like only the head of some 
much huger creature. It seemed to me for a second, there- 
fore, that some subterranean monster had thrust its head up 
above the ground. But the badger lifted one of its hind- 
paws and scratched its nose, and then I recognised my 
visitor. It did not see me, and began to root its way along 
among the bracken. My botanising tin was lying in its 
path, and the badger came upon it. " A trap ! " said the 
beast, as plainly as ever a grunt said anything, and turning 
round, my visitor pattered back into the hazels whence it 
had emerged. 

But there was something very picturesque and very 
engaging in this unexpected verse of poetry. We have very 
few wild animals, and the sight of one, whether otter or 
weasel, badger or fox, at its ease and unsuspecting, makes 
a day's walk memorable to me for ever. " That is where I 
saw so-and-so," I say to myself whenever I pass near the 
spot or hear it mentioned. A rare flower — " Sole sitting 
by the shores of the old romance," makes something of the 
same impression on me. It carries the place back into the 
far past. Antiquity comes up with us again. 

But poets are averse to badgers. 1 They notice "the 
tod" as being hunted with terriers and "vexed" in barrels. 
And they are quite content that it should be. Popular 
errors have no doubt given poets their bias, for the brock 
is a beast of ill-omen in parts of rural Britain, and the 
poets' phrase, " uneven as a badger," comes from the mis- 
taken idea that the legs of the animal were shorter on one 
side than on the other. Another tradition is to the effect 

1 Has the phrase to " badger " a person come from the practice of 
badgering badgers ? It should properly therefore mean " to make a 
baiger of a person.'' 



i 76 The Poets Beasts. 

that the badger is a very cleanly person, and that the (ox 
takes advantage of this amiable weakness to drive it out 
of its burrows, which it then occupies. Thus Phineas 
Fletcher — 

" So where the neatest badger most abides, 

Deep in the earth she frames her prettie cell, 
And into halls and closulets divides ; 

But when the stinking fox with loathsome smell 
Infects her pleasant cave, the cleanly beast 
So hates her inmate and rank-smelling guest, 
That far she flies and leaves her loathed nest." 

But there is no foundation for this pleasant fiction of the 
fastidiousness of the badger. On the contrary, it is rather 
an ill-savoured animal — to " stink like a badger " is a pro- 
verb — and is no enemy of the fox, the two being sometimes 
unearthed together. So in " Reynard the Fox," the badger, 
Grimbard, husband of the garrulous Lady Slopard, is the 
nephew of the hero, and the only one of all the beasts that 
has any influence for good over him. 

Another relative of the fox in the same fable is the strik- 
ing and picturesque animal, the otter, which is similarly 
wasted by the poets.. " The otter to his cavern drew," and 
" forth from his den the otter drew," are the usual refer- 
ences, and even these are singularly few, to the otter. Rogers 
has the otter " rustling in the sedgy mere," and two or 
three others introduce it as an adjunct of the rural scene. 

" This subtle spoiler of the beaver kind, 

Far <.•((, perhaps, where ancient alders shade, 
In deep still pool, within some hollow trunk 
Contrives His wicker couch, whence he surveys 
His long purlieu, lord of the stream, and all 
The finny shoals his own." 

Thus, one of the most picturesque and poetical of our 
native wild beasts is as neglected as most of our more 
picturesque and beautiful birds, the kingfisher, bittern, 



British Wild Beasts. i 7 7 

woodpecker, and heron. Its analog}- in poetry to the heron 
is very close, for like that bird, it is referred to occa- 
sionally as a fish-destroyer, but chiefly as a quarry for 
trained hawks; so it fares with the poor "water-dog. 5 ' Scott 
devotes to it one good passage, but he, the poet of the 
Scottish stream and loch, ought to have devoted at least 
a dozen. 

" Grayling and trout their tyrant know, 
As between reed and sedge he peers, 
With fierce round snout and sharpened ears ; 
Or, prowling by the moonbeam cool, 
Watches the stream or swims the pool." 

Though sometimes mentioned as a fish consumer, it is more 
frequent as a beast of chase. Tnus Somerville in his cruel 
'• poem " — 

" Von hollow trunk, 
That with its hoary head incurved salutes 
The passing wave, must be the tyrant's fort 
And dread abode. How these impatient climb, 
While others at the root incessant bay ! 
They pull him down. See there he dives along ! 
Th' ascending bubbles mark his gloomy way. 
Quick fix the net?, and cut off his retreat 
Into the shelt'ring depths. 

Ah ! there he vents ! 
The pack plunge headlong, and protended spears 
Menace destruction, while the troubled surge 
Indignant foams, and all the scaly kind, 
Affrighted hide their heads. Wild tumult reigns, 
And loud uproar. Ah ! there once more he vents ; 
See ! that bold hound has seized him, down they sink 
Together lost ; but soon shall he repent 
His rash assault. 

Again he vents ; 
Again the crowd attack. That spear lias pierced 
ll'\< neck, the crimson waves confess the wound, 

U 



i/S The Poets Beasts. 

Fixed is the bearded lance, unwelcome guest, 
Where'er he flies ; with him it sinks beneath, 
With him it mounts, sure guide to ev'ry foe. 
Inly he groans, nor can his tender wound 
Bear the cold stream. 

See ! there escaped he flies 
Half-drowned, and clambers up the slipp'ry bank 
With ooze and blood distained. Of all the brutes 
Whether bj N:.:ure formed or by long use, 
This artful diver best can bear the want 
Of crystal air. Unequal is the fight 
Beneath the whelming element, yet there 
He lives not long, but respiration needs 
At proper intervals. 

Lo ! to yon sedgy bank 
He creeps disconsolate : his num'rous foes 
Surround him, hounds and men. Pierced thro' and thro' 
On pointed spears they lift him high in air ; 
Wriggling he hangs, and grins, and bites in vain. 
Bid the loud horns, in gaily warbling stra: 
Proclaim the felon's fate. He dies, he dies !" 

Gay also is an enthusiast in his hatred of the otter, and in 
other poets "this subtle spoiler of the beaver kind," "the 
sly goose-footed prowler," is marked out as a proper object 
of the chase. 

" Would you preserve a num'rous finny race, 
Let your fierce dogs the rav'nous otter chase, 
Th' amphibious monster ranges all the shores, 
Darts thro' the waves and ev'ry haunt explores. 
Or let the gin his roving steps betray, 
And save from hostile jaws the scaly prey." 

In myth the otter is a creature of formidable character — 
"like a swift otter, fell through greedinesse" is Spenser's 
simile for the invader from over-sea, and there was nearly 
as much trouble in Asgard over the killing of the great 
otter, brother of Fafnir, as in the Troad over the rape of 



British Wild Beasts. 179 

Helen. The otter, Enudris of the Edda, is a fearsome 
beast, and so too is the other which, in Muscovite legend, 
carries off the Czar's son under the winter sea, and with its 
snoring makes the sea ebb and flow, nine miles at each 
breath. 

As might have been expected, the hedgehog, being 
prickly, has no friends among the poets. They do not 
forgive it its spines. 

" Who whilst in hand it gryping hard behent, 
Into a hedgehogge all unwares it went, 
And prickt him so that he away it threw." 

" Ugly urchins, thick and short," is Spenser's description. 
' ; The thorn-back hedgehog dull," says Quarles. If poets 
were fairies and given to tumbling about in hedgerows and 
copses by moonlight, the prickly animal might be objected 
to — as indeed Titania does object to the " thorny " thing ; — 
but that any rational man with boots on should bear a 
grudge against the hedgehog for having spines on its back 
seems unaccountable. For the urchin is a very pleasing 
little animal, exceedingly harmless in a wild state, and both 
useful and diverting when tame. That it makes garden- 
paths untidy by rooting up the plantain weeds is a com- 
plaint brought against it by Gilbert White, but plantains 
are in themselves untidy on garden paths. Tennyson notes 
its fondness for the plant in his " Aylmer's Field " — 

" Then the great hall was wholly broken down, 
And the broad woodland parcelled into farms ; 
And where the two contrived their daughter's good 
Lies the hawk's cast, the mole has made his run, 
The hedgehog underneath the plantain bores, 
The rabbit fondles his own harmless face, 
The slow-worm creeps, and the thin weasel there 
Follows the mouse, and all is open field." 

Instead of ridiculing it and reproaching it, why did not the 



i So The Poets Beasts. 

poets take it (as antiquity did) as the symbol of prudence, 
mother-wit, and self-reliance ? Can modesty, honour, virtue, 
do more than the hedgehog does when attacked — roll itself 
up, and present to the assailant a front equally defended at 
every point ? What a delightful lesson of patient hopeful- 
ness it teaches the Christian ! It submits to misfortune 
without a murmur, waiting till malice shall have spent itself 
and its troubles cease. What problems too it symbolises, 
this spherical impossibility ! How gingerly you have to 
handle them. Can you make head or tail out of them ? 
Vet, like most problems, if you will leave them alone long 
enough, they will solve themselves. It is surely, too, a 
type of innocence, being so harmless itself, yet so fully 
armed. It might stand, too, for law, which runs along on 
four feet, looking a simple thing enough, but which, the 
moment any one begins to meddle with it, resolves itself 
into a hopeless ball of difficulties. 

One of the legends of the hedgehog tells us how a viper 
had come into its hole, and being very much inconvenienced 
by the hedgehog's prickles, begged it to go away. " Let 
him go," replied the master of the house, " who cannot 
stay." The hedgehog's treatment of the mythic wolf is 
equally delightful. 

In folk-lore the urchin possesses occult properties which 
make it more or less eerie in reputation, but do not prevent 
it being eaten or kept in houses for clearing them of cock- 
roaches. In Drayton's " Polyolbion " the rustic, enumerat- 
ing his worldly possessions, says — 

" Sweeting mine, if thou mine own wilt be, 

I've many a pretty gaud I keepe in store for thee, 
A nest of broad-faced owls and goodly urchins too ; 
And better yet than these, a bulkin two years old, 
A curled-pate calf it is, and oft could have been sold ; 
And yet besides all this, I've goodly bear-whelps two." 

Its voice is a curious, unnatural-sounding snoring, and 



BritisJi Wild Beasts, 1S1 

sometimes a squeak — "the hedge-pig's whining" of the 
witches on the heath. It is supposed also to foretell the 
changes of weather (as indeed nearly all animals do to the 
careful observer), and so we meet with lines, " as hedgehogs 
doe foreshew ensuing storms/' " observe what way the 
hedgehog builds her nest." That it had the power of 
shooting its quills off at pleasure is a popular tradition of 
wide prevalence. Thus in " Hiawatha " — 

i; From a hollow tree the hedgehog 
With his sleepy eyes looked at him, 
Shot his shining quills like arrows ; 
Saying, \vi:h a drowsy murmur, 
Through the tangle of his whiskers, 
Take my quill;, O Hiawatha ! " 

Though Drayton speaks of "conies" being " banisht 
quite from every fertile place," they have since then become 
a tolerably " common object of the country." Few poets, 
therefore, describing a rural scene, omit this pretty and 
familiar incident of 

" Bobbing rabbits, 
Their white tails glancing." 

" The upright rabbit, where he sits and mocks you, 
Ere he deigns to hide." 

li The little noises flung, 
Out of clefts where rabbits play." 

Clare is especially full of "coy "and "scouting" 1 and 
"quirking" rabbits ; his poems are a regular warren. 

" I love to peep out on a summer's morn, 

Just as tiie scouting rabbit seeks her shed, 
And the coy hare squats nestling in the corn, 
Frit at the bowed ear tott'riyg o'er her head." 

Somerville and his contemporaries call them "dodging" 
1 An epithet used by Bloomtieki and Grahame also. 



t82 The Poets Beasts. 

conies, and, by their suggestions of their feebleness, imply 
the error of identifying them with the conies of Holy Writ, 
though the latter are really, in spite of their rabbit size, 
the connecting links between the enormous hippopotamus 
and rhinoceros, and not much more nearly related to 
Bunny than they are to " Welsh rabbits." 

It is unfortunate for the rabbit, poor " Wabasso," in one 
way, that it should be such excellent eating, for if they 
shared the hedgehog's immunity from the pie-dish, their 
pleasant republics might never know the recurring massacre. 
I confess that much as I delight in watching warren-life, 
and, indebted as I am to the grotesqueness of rabbits at play 
or at work for many a hearty laugh, I remember them 
very tenderly in a pie — a cold pie. 

I never feel guilty when I shoot rabbits. There is an 
idea somewhere about me that they multiply under destruc- 
tion. They are like peppermint plants. If you go and root 
out the bed in the corner of the garden, the plant breaks out 
all over the path. It is like fighting with original sin, as 
Dudley Warner says. So I pepper away in a warren with a 
light heart. After all, if you smash up a comet it splinters 
into stars. 

Rabbits, they say, taught men sapping and mining, — in 
'• Rasselas," at any rate, the Prince and his companion take 
the hint of tunnelling a way of escape out of the Happy 
Valley from these small rodents — and their burrows are cer- 
tainly sometimes models of ingenious complication, strong- 
holds though without strength, impregnable though without 
armament. If the poets had wanted an analogous instance 
of maternal sacrifice to take the place of the wretched old 
pelican, they might have remembered the rabbit, which 
lines her nursery with fur pulled off her own body. 

Hares go with rabbits by a process of unconscious cere- 
bration. Laprel and Kayward are sympathetic. Each in 
turn plays the other's shadow. Rabbits, however, are much 



British Wild Beasts. 1S3 

more familiar to most of us than hares. In a country walk 
you pass a second rabbit without remark ; but you draw 
attention to a hare every time you see it, and watch it as 
long as you can. 

But in the poets there are fifty hares for every rabbit, — 
" as numerous as hares on Athos " — and the reasons for this 
are obvious. The poets go by preference to antiquity, 
legends, fictions, for their Nature. They do not go to Nature 
for it 

Now, the " light-foot " hare possesses as voluminous a 
folk-lore as almost any animal, and ever since there were 
men and women in the world to be frightened by supersti- 
tion, this little creature, itself one of the most timid of 
things, has inspired human beings with dread. 

" Nor did we meet with nimble feet 
A single fearful lepus, 
That certain sign, as some divine, 
Of fortune bad to keep us." 

Sir Thomas Browne says, " There are few above the age 
of threescore and ten who are not perplexed at a hare 
crossing their path," and a number of poets allude to the 
superstition of the ill-luck foreboding, when inauspicatum 
dat iter oblatus lepus. 

" If a poor timorous hare but crosse the way, 
Moras will keep the chamber all the day." — Quarks. 

" The mythical hare," says delightful Gubernatis, " is 
undoubtedly the moon, 7 ' and the wide-spread connection of 
the animal with that luminary gives the myth something of 
a popular acceptation. Thus the Chinese represent the 
moon-figure, Jut-ho, with a hare at her feet, and symbolise 
Luna by a rabbit pounding in a mortar. In Vedic myth, 
"the leaping one" is the moon, and the spots on the face 
of it are hares by the shore of the moon-lake. These hares 



i S4 The Pods' Beasts. 

have a king, and it is Death. Buddhists, again, aver that 
the hare is in the moon as a reward for its self-sacrifice — 
meeting Bu idha hungry the hare cooked herself for his 
meal, and the Great Master threw her up there to be an 
object of the world's homage. The Red Indians also have 
a hare in their moon. 

But its peculiarly sinister reputation has arisen from its 
own timidity — " the hartlesse hare," the most timorous 
of animals, suggesting fear and so portending something 
to be feared. And in this significance the whole world at 
one time or another has taken divination from "the 
fearful hare." From no:th to south, from Lapland to 
Arabia, from east to west, from the Chinese to the Red 
Indians, all nations in the past, and many in the present, 
have seen the hand of fate in the movements of this little 
creature. 

Its appearance of perpetual alarm specially attracts the 
poets. It sits "all trembling in its form" and "springs 
astonished." It is the "list'ning" hare (Bloomfield) ; "in 
act to spring away" (Thomson); "beneath her bramble 
screen, quaking as astound" (Heber) ; "afraid to keep or 
leave her form " (Prior). "To lie and dare, as in a fourme 
sitteth a weary hare " (Chaucer), is a poetical proverb, and 
in Herbert's poem, Humility gives "the fearful hare her 
ears " to Fortitude. The story of the terrified hares being 
checked in their purpose of suicide by seeing how they had 
frightened a linnet is versified by Beattie — 

" Is there on earth a wretch, they sail, 
Whom our approach can strike with drea i ? " 

From this notion of perpetual apprehension, due in part 
to the nervous restlessness of the hare's ears, arose the fancy 
that the hare slept with one eye open — the somnus leporinus. 
Thus Keats speaks of the hare's "half-sleeping fit," and 
another poet has the admirable phrase "hare-eyed unrest.'' 



British Wild Beasts. 185 

This sleepless vigilance, however, gives the hare an important 
place in mythology, where it often figures as the sentinel. 

Being thus of ill-omen, the hare's flesh was condemned. 
Thus Burton advises against it, quoting profusely in sup- 
port of his advice. "'Tis melancholy meat," says Lady 
Answerall. 

Yet, in spite of their being nominally in such disfavour, 
we find the Romans maintaining extensive "leporaria," not 
for coursing but for the table, the shoulder being considered 
the tit-bit, while the phrase " to live on hares' flesh " became 
a synonym for " the lap of luxury " or " the fat of the land." 

Its flesh being thus reputed, the animal itself becomes 
"melancholy," and "as melancholy as a hare" is a poetical 
simile. " The sad hare," says Davenant. 

Clare notes its dulness in winter as a striking contrast to 
its summer gaiety of manners — 

" The woods how gloomy in a winter's morn, 
The crows and ravens even cease to croak ; 
The little birds sit cluttering on the thorn, 
The pies scarce chatter when they leave the oak, 
Startled from slumber by the woodman's stroke. 

The quirking rabbit scarcely leaves her hole, 

But rolls in torpid slumbers all the day ; 

The fox is loth to 'gin a long patrol, 

So scouts the woods content with meaner prey ; 

The hare so frisking, timid once, and gay, 

Now scarce is scared though in the traveller's way, 

Though waffling curs and shepherd dogs pursue." 

Finally, as melancholy conduces to madness, the hares — 
especially March hares — are popularly considered a trifle 
insane. 

Yet it is far from being of a triste or solemn kind ; for 
who has ever watched a hare, when it thought itself in safety, 
and not been amused by its absurd light-heartedness. In- 
stead of behaving like the witches' familiar, which folk-lore 



1 86 The Poets Beasts. 

has made it, it is the veriest elf of frolic Faber talks of the 
" almost silent gambols of the hares in the tall grass " — 
Burns has them on a happy summer's day " hirplin down 
the furze," and again "jinking hares in amorous whids " — 
and Wordsworth sees her "running races in her mirth." 
Cowper has pet ones — 

" I kept him for his humour's sake, 
For he would oft beguile 
My heart of thoughts that made it ache 
And force me to a smile " — 

that are " still wild Jack-hares," and — 

" A turkey carpet was his lawn, 
Whereon he loved to bound, 
To skip and gambol like a fawn, 
And swing his rump around." 

Nor is the "panting timorous" hare always "fearful." 
Like all wild things in England, where dogs, and guns, and 
traps cover the land with such a labyrinth of danger, they 
suspect man and all his works. But a very little will suffice 
to gain the confidence of hares, and make them " lose 
much of the vigilant instinctive dread," as Cowper, being 
himself inoffensive, found — " the timorous hare scarce shuns 
me." Sometimes, indeed, they require only too little en- 
couragement for boldness, and having been invited into the 
paddock with cabbage-leaves and parsley, invite themselves 
later on into the kitchen garden. In winter too, when — 

" The foodless wilds 
Pour forth their brown inhabitant?, the hare, 
Though timorous of heart and hard beset 
By death in various forms, dark snares and dogs, 
And more unpitying men, the garden seeks, 
Urged on by fearless want." — 7 homson. 

In " Reynard the Fox," the hare, Kay ward, though a 
simpleton, is certainly not a coward. 



British Wild Beasts. 1S7 

But the great majority accept only the sinister, dismal, 
and unhappy aspects of the hare. It goes "limping" in 
Grahame, Keats, Thomson, Burns, and others, as if limp- 
ing were a feature of a woe-begone, mendicant sort of 
existence, and not its natural gait, when at ease in its mind 
and quite happy. " The hare limped trembling," " the 
fearful hare limped awkward," " the limping hare stops, and 
looks back, and stops and looks on man, his deadliest foe." 
As a matter of fact, of course, the hare's " limp " is merely 
its loitering pace, and expressive of poor Watts' only too 
infrequent tranquillity. 

Associated with the hare and rabbit, but in a very 
disagreeable manner for those animals, are the " thin " 
weasels, and their relatives the ferrets — 

" In Shetland's grassy holms, the mining tribe 
Skulking, is there well pleased to dwell obscure, 
Regardless they of what loud bustiing men 
Concert in clamorous camp or palace high ; 
But what avails their unambitious care, 
If the fierce ferret spies the vaulted cell 
And rushes headlong in to seize his prey? 
At once the subterraneous state alarmed, 
Shrieks out all over — whither shall they By ? 
Caught in their inmost chambers, where they slept 
Vainly secure. The assassin fiery -eyed 
Winding up all their mazes, through and through 
Spreads desolation o'er the feeble race." — Lcyacn. 

Not only in the land of Shakspeare's " weasel-Scot," but 
in England, the ferret may still be found wild ; but Scot- 
land alone can now boast of the larger marten. 

The "sucke-egg 1 weasele" (Quarles), " night- wandering 
weasel " (Shakespeare), " wicked " weasel, finds barely a 
dozen references in all the range of poetry, though to the 

1 " I can suck melancholy out of a song, as a weasel sucks eggs." — 
As You Like It. 



iSS The Pods Beasts. 

prosaic mind this elegant little monster is full of signifi- 
cances. At any rate it is quite as pretty as the panther — 
such a favourite for its beauty with the poets — 

" Fayre was this yonge wif, and therewithal 
As any weasel hire body gent and sinal," — 

and quite as fierce as the tiger, while its voracity, agility, 
and various natural endowments, make it one of the most 
dreadful little creatures in Nature. A thousand times better 
to be a deer in a tiger's jungle than a rabbit in the same 
copse as a weasel. 

" My lord and I are kindred spirit", 
Like in our ways as two young ferrets, 
Both fashioned as that supple race is, 
To twist into all sorts of places, 
Creatures lengthy, lean, and hungering, 
Fond of blood and buirow-mongering." — Moore. 

Yet the weasel has a benign significance in ancient 
Hindu myth, as also in Red Indian legends, for one 
reason, perhaps, that it is erroneously supposed to be the 
dire foe of snakes and scorpions. Its leanness of person 
is due to the fact that, when the beasts were invited to 
help themselves from Manobozho's fat-pool, the super- 
cilious weasel came last and got none. Pope has a weasel 
that grows fat in a corn-loft. But the poet may mean upon 
a diet of mice and not corn. 

A great many poets, it may be, never saw a wild squirrel, 
so they refer only to those in cages, and draw the moral of 
foolish ambition from the sight. For myself, I think it 
very pathetic, the hopeless scrambling of the squirrel on its 
wheel ; and such lines as these exasperate me — 

" Contented like the playful squirrel 
To wanton up and down my cage." 



British Wild Beasts. 1S9 

Besides, what privilege have the poets to take it for granted 
that this creature of liberty, this "merry forester," is deluded 
by the clattering revolution of its prison into supposing that 
it is "skimming up the silent beech,'' or " dancing oak-trees 
round and round ? " It is, I think, a little high-handed to 
teach a squirrel to spin its wire treadmill, and then to 
pretend that "the foolish creature thinks he climbs," that 
it has mistaken your wretched whirligig for its old " mazy 
forest-house," the tops of the wind-blown pines, or the 
fragrant bowers of " nut-grown " hazels. I resent the similes 
of Prior, Mallet, and others, who see in the poor captives 
illustrations of human weakness and the vanities of foolish 
ambition. Nor, Mr. Moore, " does the name of the little 
animal rhyme with 'girl."' 

Of course many poets have really seen it wild, and 
they delight in it — the "bright-eyed," "busy," "gay," and 
"wanton creature." "flippant, pert, and full of play." 

" The squirrel, with aspiring mind, 
Disdains to be to earth confined, 

But mounts aloft in air ; 
The pine-tree's giddiest height he c'imbs, 
Or scales the beech-tree's loftiest limbs, 
And builds his castle there. 

As Nature's wildest tenants free, 
A merry forester is he, 

In oak o'ers'naciowed dells; 
In glen remote, or woodland lawn. 
Where the doe hides her infant fawn, 

Among the hills he dwells. " 

They stop to watch it crack its nuts and drop the shells, 
hear it "rattling in its hoard of acorns," peep into "the 
brown hermit's " larder, its winter-store of acorn, pine-cone, 
and filbert, and note "its prettiness of feigned alarm, and 
anger insignificantly fierce." 



190 The Poets' Beasts. 

" And he could tell how the shy squirrel fared, 
Who often stood its busy toils to see ; 
How ngains: winter she was well prepared 
With many a store in hollow root or tree, 
As if being told what winter's wants would be ; 
Its nuts and acorns he would often find, 
And hips and haws too, heaped plenteously 
In snug warm corner that broke off the wind, 
With leafy nest made nigh, that warm green mosses lined. 



"Wingless squirrel," says Montgomery : so Cowper, 
"swift as bird;" and Charlotte Smith, at greater length — 

" Though plumeless, he can dart away, 
Swift as the woodpecker or the jay, 

His sportive mates to woo ; 
His summer's food is berries wild, 
And last year's acorn cups are filled 

For him with sparking dew. 

Soft is his shining auburn coat, 
As ermine white his downy throat, 

Intelligent his mien ; 
With feathery tail and ears alert, 
And little paws as hands expert, 

And eyes so black and keen. 

Soaring above the earth-born herd 
Of beasts, he emulates the bird, 

Yet feels no want of wing ; 
Exactly poised, he dares to launch 
In air, and bounds from branch to branch, 

With swift elastic spring." 

Naturally enough, the poets admire the forethought of 
the squirrel in furnishing its larder against the winter — 

" Within some old fantastic tree, 
Where time has worn a cavity, 
His winter food is stored ; 



British Wild Beasts. 191 

The cone beset with many a scale, 
The chestnut in its coat of mail, 
Or nuts complete his hoard." 

Or, in Clare — 

" The squirrel bobbing from the eye 
Is busy now about his hoard ; 
And in old nest of crow or pye, 
His winter-store is oft explored/' 

But this engaging prevision has a charm within a charm. 
For the squirrel goes to sleep during the winter, and its 
diligence in collecting food for a time when it does not 
need it might therefore seem somewhat misdirected. But 
the squirrel knows that there are often breaks of fine 
weather in the middle of winter, and it is really for these 
occasional picnics that the brown hermit provisions him- 
self— 

,; When drawn from refuge in some lonely elm, 
That age or injury has hollowed deep, 
Where on his bed of wool and matted leaves 
He has outslept the winter, ventures forth 
To frisk awhile, and bask in the warm sun." 

So that as a matter of fact the squirrel does not lay up 
food against bad weather, but against fine. Moreover, it 
very often happens that the little creature forgets where 
it has concealed its hoards ; and every one who lives in 
the country knows how common it is in tumble-down walls 
or about old trees to find stocks of nuts and acorns that 
have been laid up but never consumed. The instinct to 
lay by against heavy snowfalls has been inherited, no doubt, 
from progenitors who lived in the years of harder winters, 
and though the necessity for its exercise now hardly exists, 
the squirrel is still as industrious as ever, and, therefore, 
twice as industrious as it need be. 

Its merry heart is certainly one of the squirrel's many 



192 The Poets Beasts. 

claims to favour, and its nimble industry, so often noted by 
the poets, suggests one of the most curious legends of which 
this delightful little animal is the subject. On the top of 
the dreadful ash-tree Ygdrasil sits the Death-Eagle, and 
down among its roots lies coiled Fate, the dragon Nidhoge, 
and the squirrel is for ever running up and down from one 
to the other, trying to make them quarreL 

Red men have many superstitions about their squirrels, 
one species of which closely resembles our own ruddy 
favourite. As every one knows, it was Hiawatha's bene- 
factor and honoured companion in that perilous voyage on 
the black pitch-water — 

" On the bows with tail erected 
Sate the squirrel Ajidauno ; 
In his fur the breeze of morning 
Fiayed as in the prairie grasses." 

They cough to this day because once they were men, and 
Manobozho, the mischief-maker, gave them meat which 
turned to ashes in their mouths, and then, for coughing out 
his victuals, he turned them all into squirrels. They are one 
of the Indians' most familiar forms of enchantment, and in 
many of their tales the hero is turned by beneficent fairies 
into this animal's form in order to enable him to accomplish 
his labours. Thus " the wearer of the Ball " becomes a 
squirrel when he has to chase the flying hut which is built 
in the top of a pine-tree that keeps on growing up higher 
the higher the hero climbs. 

Moles have in some countries a diabolical, in others only 
a mysterious reputation. Now and again it has a medicinal 
ct, as among the Russians, who say that if you kill a mole 
by squeezing it in your hand, you can touch for the king's 
evil, while in England, not so very long ago, a mole was a 
sure cure for ague — if eaten crisp. But these are excep- 
tional views to take of the "little gentleman in the velvet 



British Wild Beasts. 193 

coat," and to be accepted with as much reserve as the moles 
of Holy Writ, which, owing to errors of translation, should 
sometimes be read " Swan ! " The intelligent, however, 
will do well to regard the mole as a curious little beast, 
created apparently for the purpose of providing the earth 
with an invaluable system of sub-soil drainage, and, sub- 
ordinately, as a moral discipline for landscape gardeners — 
and (in Hurdis) for shepherds — 

" Scarce disappears the deluge, when the mole, 
Close prisoner long in subterranean cell 
Frost-bound, again the miner plays, and heaves, 
With treble industry, the mellow mound 
Along the swarded vale. The shepherd's eye 
With unforgiving enmity surveys 
The long concatenated sweep of hills, 
Whose soft and crumbling soil abridges more 
The scanty pittance of his hungry fold." 

Cowper, with a wail of sympathy that is almost charac- 
teristic of him, finds in the little harmless beast a sinister 
analogy — 

" We mount again, and feel at every step 
One foot half sunk in hillocks green and soft, 
Raised by the mole, the miner of the soil. 
He, not unlike the great ones of mankind, 
Disfigures earth, and plotting in the dark, 
Toils much to earn a monumental pile 
That may record the mischief he has done." 

Nor is it without interest as being the chief possessor of all 
the world below the surface. 

" What need of all this marble crust 
To impack the wanton mole of dust, 
That thinks by breadth the world t' unite 
Though the first builders failed in height." — Marvell. 

In some places the rat usurps its patrimony, but the 

N 



194 The Pods Beasts. 

"handed" mole has plenty of room to spare, and though 
the worms drive their narrow tunnels in subterranean 
labyrinth, the mole does not complain, for it eats the 
worms. 

With the poets "the mole that scoops with curious toil 
his subterranean bed" (Montgomery) ; that "the crumbled 
earth in hillocks raises" (Gay); "unwearied still roots up 
many a crumbling hill" (Clare) ; is a "dark grubbing" and 
" blinking " creature. Cowper typifies Error as a mole, and 
Dryden has "like a mole busy and blind, works all his 
folly up and casts it outward to the world's open air." 
Eliza Cook is good enough to say that " there's a mission, 
no doubt, for the mole in the dust," and Spenser speaks 
of the " moldwarp " as a slothful sensualist. Mackay calls 
all sorts and conditions of men — grasping tyrants, angry 
bigots, selfish rulers, palace knaves, canting hypocrites, 
greedy authors, smug philosophers, Malthusians — every- 
body in fact who tries "to keep the nations down" by 
plotting against liberty of mind or freedom of conscience, 
"moles" — 

" Grub, little moles, grub underground, 
There's sunshine in the sky." 

Keats uses the image finely in the following passage from 
" Isabella "— 

" Who hath not loitered in a green churchyard, 
And let his spirit, like a demon mole, 
Work through the clayey soil and gravel hard, 

To see skull, coffined bones, and funeral stole ; 
Pitying each form that hungry Death had marred, 
And filling it once more with human soul." 

On the other hand, the poets applaud its acute sense of 
hearing, and deplore its feeble eyesight — 

" What modes of sight betwixt the wide extreme ! 
The mole's dim curtain, and the lynx's beam." — Pope. 



British Wild Beasts. 195 

The chief point about the natural mole — Tennyson's ''four- 
handed mole " — is its industry in digging ; and the poets, 
observing the superficial evidences of its diligence, address 
the "moudiewort " as "patient," draw numerous reflections 
from its "delving," "earth-piercing," and "mining," which, 
by the way, the fairies are supposed to have taught them. 
Thus Pope advises man to imitate the mole in deep- 
ploughing. 

Mice are not suitable subjects for poetry. There is very 
little of the hieroglyph, few subtle significances, in the 
pantry-invading, cat-eaten mouse. It is difficult to dignify 
it. Mouse-character is very one-sided : there are no 
enormities about it, no picturesque ferocity, or blood- 
curdling wolfishness ; nor does it conceal itself sufficiently 
to be worth calling " obscene." Besides, it is so absurdly 
small. Once in a way it was well enough to make "the 
crumb ravisher," "cheese-rind nibbler," " bacon-licker," and 
their comrades-in-arms, heroic ; but the joke does not bear 
repetition. It is sad that cats should think so well of them 
as food, and that mouse-traps should be so efficacious, but 
what is to be done? They insist on being where they 
should not go, and affront man himself by tampering with 
his victuals. 

Such is the poetical acceptation of the mouse. As 
" Tom's food " they are benignly congratulated upon their 
utility, and, though expected to rejoice when cats decease, 
are sternly reminded that pussy alive was a wholesome 
corrective to mouse excesses. Thus Clare — 

" Ah mice, rejoice ! ye've lost your foe, 
Who watched your scheming robb'ries so 
That, while she lived, twa'nt yours to know 

A crumb of bread : 
'Tis yours to triumph, mine's the woe, 

Now pussy's dead ; 
While pus?y lived ye'd empty maws, 
No sooner peeped ye out your nose, 



196 The Poets' Beasts. 

But ye were instant in her claws, 

With squeakings dread ; 
Ye're now set free from tyrant's laws, 

Poor pussy's dead." 

They may eat crumbs if they can, but if the cat comes, 
it will serve them right if they get eaten themselves ; as in 
Herrick — 

" So the brisk mouse may feast herself with crumbs, 
Till the green-eyed killing comes, 
Then to her cabin, blest she can escape 
The sudden danger of a rape." 

So also when the mouse is caught in a trap, the poets 
hold it inevitable justice that it should die. Thus Somer- 
ville speaks of "the rigorous decree of fate '' that condemns 
cheese-hunting mice to execution, and Clare of the "rigid 
fate " that awaits the tiny pilferer. 

But outside the poets, the mouse has considerable dignity. 
It is " the ravisher " of Vedic legends, and in the solar 
myth the mice are the shadows which creep out from under 
the hills, and which the cat-moon and her kitten the twi- 
light hunt. It was turned into a tiger as a reward for 
assisting a Brahmin, and might have been a tiger still, had 
it not in its new shape proceeded to eat the Brahmin, and 
for this been promptly turned back into a mouse again. 
Nor can an animal be called merely a pantry-thief that 
sometimes eats kings and archbishops, to say nothing of 
the sons of Polish dukes. 1 Is the mouse, portentous to 
Rome, to be perpetually cowering before "green-eyed kit- 
lings?" If poets have no respect for mice, have they none 
for St. Gertrude, their patron ? Take again their position 
in fairy tales. The mice are always beneficent. Their feud 
with the sparrows is doubtless deplorable, but did it arise 

1 According to legend King Popelus was eaten by mice, also Duke 
Conrad's son (of Poland), also Otho, Archbishop of Mentz. 



British Wild Beasts. 197 

from the fault of the mice ? Were not they and the spar- 
rows firm friends till the former behaved so meanly in that 
matter of the odd poppy seed, eating the whole of it them- 
selves instead of fairly dividing it with the mice ? Xor 
should it be remembered as discreditable to the mouse 
that it is not on good terms with the cat, for the cat be- 
haved very shabbily towards its little partner about that pot 
of fat which they had stored away in the church, for joint 
winter consumption : for, not content with faithlessly eating 
all the fat by herself, Grimalkin also ate the mouse for 
reproaching her. The majority of fables are to the credit 
of the mouse : its gratitude is conspicuous, its services to 
princes in trouble momentous ; and did it not, at the risk 
of its own life, release a lion ? Lions are great mouse- 
eaters. 

But the mouse, apart from man's household and yet more 
sacred person, that is to say, the field-mouse — for poets con- 
sider corn-stealing in the country merely an amiable weak- 
ness as compared with the iniquity of crumb-stealing in the 
town — receives more sympathetic treatment. They rejoice 
over "the pilfering mouse entrapped and caged" in a 
kitchen, and moralise loftily — 

" When the watchful hungry mouse 
At midnight prowling round the house, 
Winds in a corner toasted cheese, 
Glad the luxurious prey to seize, 
With whiskers curled, and round black ey 
He meditates his luscious prize, 
Till caught, trepanned, laments too late 
The rigorous decrees of fate." — Sorrier: 

For the " city mouse, well coated, sleek, and gay, a mouse 
of high degree" (Cowley \ is looked upon as an animal that 
arrives at great personal comfort, and lives luxuriously, by 
dishonest practices. But the " fieldish " mouse has some- 
how acquired a character for industrious honesty and 



198 The Poets Beasts. 

thrifty struggling against poverty. Thus Wyatt, in his 
delightful poem "On the Mean and Sure Estate" — 

" The fieldish mouse, 
That for because her livelihood was but thin, 
Would needs go see her townish sister's house, 
She thought herself endured to grievous pain, 
The stormy blasts her cave so sore did souse ; 
That when the furrows swimmed with the rain, 
She must be cold and wet, in sorry plight, 
And worse than that, bare meat there did remain. 
To comfort her, when she her house had dight, 
Sometime a barley corn, sometime a bean, 
For which she laboured hard both day and night 
In harvest time, while she might go and glean. 
And when her store was stroyed with the flood, 
Then welladay ! for she undone was clean." 

Thus Clare delights in the pretty little animal with its 
nest swinging from a wheat-stalk — 

"The little chumbling mouse 
Gnarls the dead weed for her house. 

The fields are cleared, the labouring mice 

To sheltering hedge or wood patrole, 
When hips and haws for food suffice 

That chumbled lie about their hole." 

Hurdis sits out to watch 

" Tiie wanton mouse, 
And see him gambol round the primrose hear!, 
Till the still owl comes smoothly sailing forth, 
And with a shrill ' to-whit' breaks off his dance 
And sends him scouring home." 

Indeed, the owl, "whose meteor eyes shoot horror through 
the dark," often gets well rated for "numbing the tiny 
revellers with dread." Its habit of "prowling along the 
fields " is thrown in its beak, and it is reproached for sub- 
terfuge, when 



British Wild Beasts. 199 

" In a barn 
He sees a mouse creeping in the corn, 
Sits still and shuts his round blue eyes, 
As if he slept, until he spies 
The little beast within his reach, 
Then starts and seizes on the wretch." — Butler. 

Burns laments over the 

" Wee sleekit, cow'rin', tim'rous beastie," 

and its little home in the stubble ruined by the plough, — 

" That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble 
Has cost thee moiiy a weary nibble." 

Two full-grown " harvest-mice " weigh exactly one half- 
penny, and it was no doubt the marrow of this diminutive 
species that Titania used to have on her toast. It is not, 
however, out of place here to remind poets that the 
" delightful " field-mouse, as they think it, and as it un- 
doubtedly is to all lovers of Nature, is " the corn-destroyer " 
of Holy Writ, and that they are "the mice that marred the 
land " of Philistia, the scourge of an angry Jehovah. Nor 
— to descend to lesser catastrophes — are the field-mice that 
ate up the Bishop of Bingen altogether trivial creatures. In 
England and Europe generally, the "pilfering" field-mice 
that "with far-fetched ear its hole supplies" (Clare), some- 
times commit very serious depredations in the barns and 
rick-yards into which it has been carried at harvest time. 
Those that have been left behind in the fields become 
partially torpid, and take refuge in little grass-lined burrows ; 
but their more fortunate friends in the barns keep awake in 
winter "as if on purpose to show their gratitude for their 
liberal provender." 

References are made to many of the mice of story — 
Wyatt's fieldish mouse; the town mouse and its country 
cousin ; the golden mice of the covenantal ark ; those that 
fought the frogs \ the mouse (in Crabbe) 



200 The Poets' Beasts. 

" That trespassed and the treasure stole, 
Found his lean body fitted to the hole ; 
Till, having fatted, he was forced to stay, 
And, fasting, starve his stolen bulk away," 

and those of the Mouse Tower on the Rhine, while the 
morals and wise saws derived from the same animal are 
unexpectedly numerous. 

" I hold a mouse's wit not worth a leke, 
That hath but one hole for to stenten to." — Chancer. 

" 'Tis a bold mouse that nestles in a cat's ear, 
I gave the mouse a hole and she is become my heir." — Herbert. 

" Dronke as a mous." — Chancer. 

" The mouse 
Finds no pleasure in a poor man's house. — Quarles. 

" State vermin, gnawing into labour's bread." — E. Cook. 

" Show him a mouse's tail and he will guess, 

With metaphysic swiftness, at the mouse." —Keats. 

Women, it is proverbial, dread mice. Says Crabbe — 

" She who will tremble if her eye explore 
The smallest monstrous mouse that creeps on floor." 

But they do not, as a rule, altogether dislike them, or 
Suckling might regret his pretty simile, who writes — 

" Her feet beneath her petticoat 
Like little mice crept in and out, 
As if they feared the light." 

1 Pope has it weakly — 

" The mouse that always trusts to one poor hole, 
Can never be a mouse of any soul." 

So Herbert — 

" The mouse that hath but one hole is quickly taken." 



British Wild Beasts. 201 

In Jean Ingelow there is a pleasant reference to the 
"water-mouse " among the reeds — 

" His bright eyes glancing black as beads, 
So happy with a bunch of seeds," 

and several poets refer kindly to the "drowsy," " wondering," 
"sleepy" dormouse. In Red Indian fairy tales the dor- 
mouse, the '• blind woman," is a thing of some consequence. 
Once upon a time, a dwarf, annoyed by the sun, persuaded 
his sister to make a net out of her hair, and going out to 
the edge of the prairie next morning, he caught the sun 
just as it was rising, and pinned it down inside the net to the 
ground. Prodigious was the consternation in Nature when 
the sun did not rise, and long and serious the pow-wow of 
the beasts. But at last the venerable dormouse (at that 
time the largest of all animals and the Ulysses among them) 
guessed what was the matter, and going to the edge of the 
prairie released the luminary. But in doing so it was 
shrivelled up to its present size. 

As regards its forethought for the winter, the dormouse 
is even more interesting than the squirrel. For not only 
does it, like the squirrel, lay up its little hampers for 
occasional picnics in the snatches of fine weather, but it 
takes care, before turning into its cosy little moss-ball for 
the winter, to fatten itself up to an extraordinary obesity. 
So fat, indeed, does it become, that without any food at 
all laid by, it could sleep out a whole winter comfortably. 
But the delightful little Sybarite is not going to run any 
risks, so, like the juryman in Punch, it first of al eats 
itself into invincible fatness, and fills its pockets besides 
with condensed foods. 

It was this capacity for fattening that endeared the 
dormice to Roman epicures. Their "gliralia" or "dor- 
mouse parks " were most extensive and costly erections, 
planted with oaks and nut-trees for the sustenance of these 



202 The Poets Beasts. 

small deer, who, as required for the table, were caught 
and put into jars provided with every sort of mouse 
luxury. 

Rat is a frequent epithet of reproach. Sycophants 
deserting a declining patron " as rats do a falling house," 
are vermin. So are beggars "as poor as church rats" 
(Marvell), and so are thieves. " There be land-rats and 
water-rats, land-thieves and water-thieves," and so are the 
Jesuits in Oldham. 

" Prophet, curse me the babbling lip, 
And curse me the British vermin, the rat ; 
I know not whether he came in the Hanover ship 
But I know that he lies and listens mute 
In an ancient mansion's crannies and holes. 
Arsenic, arsenic, sure would do it, 
Except that now we poison our babes, poor souls ! 
It is all used up for that." 

Its two great historical iniquities, eating Mrs. Throck- 
morton's bullfinch — 

" For aided both by ear and scent, 
Right to his mark the monster went. 

Ah, muse ! forbear to speak. 
Minute the horrors that ensued ; 
His teeth were strong, his cage was wood, 
He left poor Bully's beak" {Cowper) — 

And Bishop Hatto — 

" In at the windows, and in at the door, 
And through the walls by thousands they pour, 
And down from the ceiling and up from the floor, 
From the right and the left, from behind and before, 
From within and without, from above and below, 
And all at once to the bishop they go. 
They have whetted their teeth against the stones, 
And now they pick the bishop's bones. 



British Wild Beasts. 203 

They gnawed the flesh from every limb, 

For they were sent to do judgment on him " (Southey) — 

are each the subject of a poem. Nor is the death of the 
bishop at all beyond rat capabilities ; for it is beyond doubt 
that men have been killed and eaten by rats in the sewers, 
both of London and Paris, while Professor Bell, on the 
authority of Robert Stephenson, relates the following 
instance of the extreme ferocity of the rat when driven to 
hunger. 1 " In a coal-pit," he says, " in which many horses 
were employed, the rats (which fed upon the fodder pro- 
vided for the horses) had accumulated in great multitudes. 
It was customary in holiday times to bring to the surface 
the horses and the fodder, and to close the pit for the time. 
On one occasion, when the holiday had extended to ten 
days or a fortnight, during which the rats had been deprived 
of food, on reopening the pit, the first man who descended 
was attacked by the starving multitude, and speedily killed 
and devoured ! " Of their audacity Butler gives delightful 
illustration — rats getting into his worthy's breeches-pockets 
to eat his rations — 

'• For, as we said, he always chose 
To carry little in his hose. 
That often tempted rats and mice 
The ammunition to surprise ; 
And when he put a hand but in 
The one or t'other magazine, 
They stoutly on defence on't stood, 
And from the wounded foe drew blood. 
And till th' were stormed and beaten out, 
Ne'er left the fortified redoubt " — 

while Shenstone records in verse the all-too-frequent 
vanity of the rat-trap. 

1 Cassell's " Natural History," edited by Professor P. Martin Duncan, 
F.R.S., F.G.S. 



204. The Poets Beasts. 

" But more of trap and bait, sir, 
Why should I sing of either? ' 
Since the rat who knew the sle 
Came in the dead of night, 

-ragged 'em away together. 

Then answer this, ye sages ! 
Nor deem I mean to wrong ye, 
Had the rat, which thus did seize on 
The trap, less claim to reason 
Than many a skull among ye ? " 



Tennyson makes " the little rat : ' a terrific agent in 
catastrophe — 

" Ah, little rat, that borest in the dyke 

Thy hole by night, to let the boundless deep 
Down upon far-off cities while they dance 
Or dream. 

Among British " wild animals " may also be enumerated 
the polecat, pine-marten, and wild-cat. and each is referred 
to by our poets. 



rljS^S^fe- 



VIII. 
BEASTS OF CHASE. 

" The chase, the sport of kings, image of war without its 
guilt," is Somerville's definition; and he tells us that "devo- 
tion, pure and strong necessity, first began the chase of 
beasts." Thus pious in conception, and innocent in pro- 
cess, " sport " should have no need of apology. 

But let us hear the other side, and by preference — as 
more nearly corresponding to Somerville in extremity of 
prejudice — Thomson : 

'' In the gleaming morn 
The beasts of prey retire, that all night long, 
Urged by necessity had ranged the dark, 
As if their conscious ravages shunned the light, 
Ashamed. Not so the steady tyrant man, 
Who, with the thoughtless insolence of power 
Inflamed beyond the most infuriate wrath 
Of the worst monster that e'er roamed the waste, 
For sport alone pursues the cruel chase 
Amid the beamings of the gentle day. 
Upbraid, ye ravening tribes, our wanton rage, 
For hunger kindles you, and lawless want ; 
But lavish fed, in Nature's bounty rolled, 
To joy at anguish, and delight in blood, 
Is what your horrid bosoms never knew." 



Nor is Cowper less pronounced in his aversion to the 
hard exercise of hunting. 



206 The Poets Beasts. 

Between these two superlatives stand ranged every con- 
ceivable degree of comparison, and it is very difficult indeed 
to decide whether the poetic instinct is hostile to sport, as 
sport, or is favourable. A few writers devote whole poems 
to the glorification of the chase in general and certain forms 
of hunting in particular. On the other hand, a score and 
more of poets condemn it root and branch. 

Even on special points the diversity of opinion is note- 
worthy ; for, while some go into raptures over the death of 
the stag, others mingle their tears with those of " the sobbing 
victim ; " one party exults over the fox-hunt, styling the 
field " bold heroes ; " the other calls them " cravens," and 
says the whole thing is a crying shame. Gay magnifies 
coursing the hare as a delirious delight ; Somerville calls 
down the vengeance of Heaven upon " the vile crew " who 
go after Puss with greyhounds. 

They are not even agreed on facts. The quarrel com- 
mences at the very beginning. For instance, Somerville 
says — 

" When Nimrod bold, 
A mighty hunter ! first made war on beasts ;" 

while Pope has — 

" Proud Nimrod first the bloody chase began ; 
A mighty hunter, and his prey was man." 

And they carry on their differences up to their own days. 
Thus one poet eulogises the modern lady in the hunting- 
field, as if she were a Florence Nightingale ; another cries, 
Fie on her ! and tells the hussy to get home. So that it is 
not easy to arrive at the just middle of poetical opinion 
upon the subject of sport. 

But a very unmistakable point upon which our poets are 
agreed, and, in my opinion, are every one of them open to 
unfavourable criticism, is their deficiency of sympathy. Of 
" sentiment " they have a constant abundance. I regret 



Bias/s of Chase. 207 

its excess in Wordsworth, for instance, and resent it in 
Cowper ; Thomson provokes me almost to apoplexy ; and 
as for Eliza Cook, I weep such tears over her as, I am 
informed, I wept in childhood over that unfortunate ram 
which Abraham chanced to sacrifice in the place of his son. 
There is much pathos in the fate of the ram which had 
come as a looker-on, and had to take the leading part 
straight off without even a rehearsal. There is much 
pathos, too, about Eliza Cook's poetry. 

By " sympathy " I mean literally what the word implies ; 
that is, fellow-feeling ; and nowhere in poetry do I find this 
beautiful quality so wanting — as compared with prose — as 
in the poets' treatment of the chase. When they hold with 
the hare they seem to have no appreciation of the courage 
and endurance of the riders, horses, or pack ; when they 
hunt with the hounds they are as pitiless as the dogs them- 
selves, rush frenzied into the death-worry, and roll in the 
spilt blood. This loss of balance puzzles me. If a " poet " 
was of necessity a genius I could understand it. But their 
madness has not always this justification of alliance. 

Shelley may say anything he likes — he does, as a rule — 
but I do not object to his spotted tigers or his kingfishers 
that feed on raspberries. He may make his tigers feed on 
kingfishers, or his kingfishers on tigers — it would not matter. 
Nor is there anything that might not be forgiven to a Milton, 
a Crashawe, or a Keats. I would follow a man all round 
the parish with my bowie-knife who objected (seriously) to 
Spenser's statements that boars feed upon camels or that 
bats are birds. 

For though these great poets are often wrong in facts — 
and what decently-thinking man does not hate them ? the 
accomplished fact is a simple brute — they are never deficient 
in sympathy. Yet they never "gush." Without calling 
man a monster they can admire and feel with the creatures 
which for his pleasure or his profit he puts to death. But 



208 The Poets Beasts. 

the majority seem unable to do this ; they have not the 
strength for impartiality; they keep themselves perpen- 
dicular with sprawling buttresses of prejudice. 

To illustrate this. The wild boar is a noble beast ; he is 
the counterpart of the noblest men of an earlier age ; a 
Charles Martel, Charles the Bold, Charles XII. — a grand 
creature, who treats the odds against him as children treat 
chronology, as something that he neither understands nor 
cares to. He takes victory by the ears and drags her along 
with him into battle. But in poetry none of the courage, 
this perfection of heroism, is carried to the boar's credit ; 
it all goes to that of the hunters or the boar-hounds. The 
latter beset it, and do it to death with weapons, nets, and 
stress of numbers. They are " heroic," but the boar is only 
" savage." 

The stag, again. He is stately and fleet of foot. But if 
this is true of the quarry, what shall we say, the poets ask, 
of the men and the stag-hounds that hunt it down ? The 
hare and the otter are wonderfully cunning, but what fools 
they are compared to the craft of human kind ! The fox, 
too, what do its wiles avail when outraged man is on its 
racks, thirsting to avenge the duckling and the chicken? 

In the poem on "The Chase" Somerville ranges over 
half the animal kingdom; but, as far as British poets are con- 
cerned, the beasts of sport are virtually only five — the wild 
boar, deer, fox, hare, and otter. The wild-cat, as is proved 
by old manorial charters, was once included in the list, but 
it is not a poet's beast 

Incidentally, of course, every quadruped that finds notice 
in verse is referred to in its relation to man — that of the 
hunted to the hunter — but, as objects of the chase, the 
animals finally resolve themselves into the mystic five. The 
chief of these is the boar. 

Homer, describing the outrush of the brothers Ajax, 
employs it as a simile — 



Beasts of Chase. 209 

" Forth from their portals rushed th' intrepid pair, 
Opposed their breasts and stood themselves the war. 
So two wild boars spring furious from their den, 
Roused with the cries of dogs and voice of men. 
On every side the crackling trees they tear, 
And root the shrubs, and lay the forest bare ; 
They gnash their tusks, with fire their eyeballs roll, 
Till some wide wound lets out their mighty soul." 

Ovid, in his description of the beast, has the following 
lines — 

"Sanguine et igne micant oculi, riget horrida cervix, 
Et setae, densis similes hastilibus horrent, 
Stantque velut vallum, velut alta hastilia sctas. 
Fervida cum rauco latos stridore per armos 
Spuma fluit." 

In these two passages are contained the sum total of the 
English poets' wild boar : Homer's simile and Ovid's 
description have sufficed. 

This animal, by the way, affords us a standard by which 
to measure our own manhood with that of the " heroic," 
chivalrous, and historical days. " The destruction of a 
wild boar," we read, "ranked in the middle ages among 
the deeds of chivalry, and won for a warrior almost as much 
renown as the slaying of an enemy in open lists." Think 
of this, you jolly hog-hunters of India ! Regret, when you 
next ride to pig, with a single spear in your hand, that you 
did not live in the past, when, if you had gone after the 
same beast in armour, javelined, and sworded, you might 
have been a hero. Look at your trophies of tushes and 
lament. Each pair of those in the days of the Earl Guy 
might have made you a national hero for life and perhaps 
even a Saint of Christendom thereafter ! 

In Windsor Forest the redoubtable Earl "did all to — 
kill" a "grisly bore," and he lives for ever a mirror of 
heroism. 

o 



The Poets Beasts. 

" As also how hee slue 

turned up v ; of graine 

•. 
I 
A ; 

[ his head, a troj ire. " — D.ayton. 

Are the Gore to forget their illustrious clans- 

man wfac 'A Huntley?" or the Boswells 

how their ancestor avenged the death of Farquhar IL, King 

"- — 

,; ^Tien beyond he lyeth languV 

In Chetwode once abode a boar, and the terror of it was 

it the country people could not pass that way to 

Rookwood; and even travellers of quality "passed by on 

other side." Then Sir Ryalas, Lord of Chetwode, 

-name that he should be thus isolated 

from society by an " urchin-snouted boar," goes forth to 

it, as if the beast were a Guiilaume le Sanglier with a 

•-.ade of castle trumpets. 

I . ng — 

Wind well thy horn, good hunter ; 
I the trees as he ramped him along. 

7 Sir Ryalas, the jc 

7 : hours in a long summer day — 

hoip, good hunter ; 

I have got him away 
ial hunter. 

he drew his broadsword with m:_ 
. hunter ; 
And he fc. . I off quite, 

.here existed a lar^e 
z the name of ' the ] 
Pond.' I ivergrown ^nd brushwood. • 



Beasts of Chase. 2 1 1 

Another illustration of the prodigious importance attached 
to such a feat is afforded by the legend of Boarstall, the 
seat of the Aubreys. " It is situated within the limits of 
the ancient forest of Bernwood, which was very extensive 
and thickly wooded. This forest, in the neighbourhood 
of Brill, where Edward the Confessor had a palace, was 
infested with a ferocious wild boar, which had not only 
become a terror to the rustics, but a great annoyance 
to the royal hunting expeditions. At length one Nigel, 
a huntsman, dug a pit in a certain spot which he had 
observed the boar to frequent, and, placing a sow in the pit, 
covered it with brushwood. The boar came after the sow, 
and, falling into the pit, was easily killed by Nigel, who 
carried its head on his sword to the king, who was then 
residing at Brill." For this the king knighted him "and 
amply rewarded him ! " 

All this goes to prove the manly courage of the men 
who killed boars ; yet the boar's courage is all bloodthirsty 
ferocity. Adonis will not stay with his celestial charmer j 
his thoughts are all given to the boar-hunt he has on hand — 

" But for she saw him bent to cruell play, 
To hunt the salvage beast in forest wyde. 
Dreadfull of danger that mote him betyde, 
She oft and oft advized to refraine 
From chase of greater beastes, whose brutish pry :e 
Mote breede him scath unwares." 

So, too, the lovely Thyamis wedded to a "loose, unruly 
swain," 

bring it into cultivation, began to fill up the ditch by leveiling the 
mound. Having lowered the latter about four feet he came on the 
skeleton of an enormous boar lying flat on its side and at full length. 
Probably this was the very spot where it had been killed, the earth 
around having been heaped over it so as to form the ditch and moumi. 
The space formerly thus occupied can still be traced. It extends about 
thirty feet in length and eighteen in width, and the field containing it 
is yet called 'the Boar's Head Field.' "—Book of Days. 



2 1 2 The Poets Beasts. 

" Who had more joy to range the forest wyde, 
And chase the salvage boar with busie payne, 
Than serve his lady's love ; " 

goes out loveless into the wilderness. 

Boar-hunting had therefore — at least so it would appear — 
momentous consequences in the days of chivalry; now-a-days 
it is a mere pastime with Englishmen; they call it "stick- 
ing pigs." None of them expects knighthood for the per- 
formance, nor does the pig-sticker expect his wife to go 
forth mad during his absence. Of course it may be said 
that boars are not what they were "in the good old days," 
and there the poets have the best of it — for their boars are 
perfect hurricanes. But I protest against their handling of 
them. The valour of the gallant brute was worth a passing 
compliment. 

" Hero-like, who on their crest still wore 
A lion, panther, leopard, or a boar." 

Now the three first animals mentioned in Lovelace's lines 
are, according to the traditions of the College of Arms, one 
and the same beast. Virtually, therefore, the boar is the 
only animal except the lion that was considered worthy by 
ancient chivalry to be worn as a badge. 

" Tusky boars l 
Razed out of all thy woods, as trophies hung, 
Grin high-emblazoned on thy children's shields." 

So Planche, in his " Pursuivant of Arms," notes how in 
Glover's Roll (temp. Henry III.) only three beasts were 
then borne upon English coats-of-arms, and that one of 
them was the boar. It shared with the lion and the leopard 
the honourable distinction of emblazonment upon shields. 
Mrs. Bury Palliser also, in her most fascinating work on 

1 Leyden's "Albania." 



Beasts of Chase. 2 1 3 

<: Historic Devices," bears ample testimony to the heraldic 
dignity of the beast. 

The device of a boar was used by Richard III. before he 
was a king, and when Duke of Gloucester he had a pur- 
suivant named Blanc Sanglier. His cognisance was a rose 
supported on the dexter side by a bull, a badge of the house 
of Clare, and on the sinister by a boar, which boar he had 
found among the badges of the house of York. " The 
latter he selected for his own personal device, and it was 
that by which he was generally designated, as we know by 
the doggrel which is said to have caused its composer to be 
shortened by the head and four quarters " — 

" The Ratte, the Cat, and Lovell our dogge, 
Rule all England under the Hogge," 

meaning by the hog, " the dreadful wild boar " which was 
the king's crest. But Collingbourne was one of the most 
seditious of the disaffected, and held correspondence with 
Richard and deserved his fate. 

,; When I meant the king by name of hog, 
I only alluded to his badge the boar." 

Queen Margaret calls Richard a " rooting hog," and 
Hastings says — 

" To fly the boar before the boar pursues 
Were to incense the boar to follow us, 
And make pursuit when he did mean no chase. 
Go, bid thy master rise and come to me, 
And we will both together to the tower, 
Where, he shall see, the boar will use us kindly." 

Again, Hastings to Stanley — 

" Come on, come on, where is your boarspear man? 
Fear you the boar and go so unprovided?" 

Nor was the bristled boar wanting at the battle of Bos- 



2 1 4 The Poets Beasts. 

worth ; for, gorgeously attired in splendid armour, and 
rendered still more conspicuous by the royal diadem which 
surmounted his helmet, Richard rode upon a milk-white 
charger superbly caparisoned and attended by his body- 
guards, displaying the banner of England and innumerable 
pennons glittering with the silver boar. After his death, 
Richard's body was placed across his war steed " like a 
hogue calf," the head and arms hanging on one side of 
the horse and the legs on the other side, and was thus 
disposed behind his pursuivant-at-arms, Blanc Sanglier, he 
wearing the silver boar upon his coat, and carried back 
to Leicester in trophy of the morning's victory. 

The poetical boar is a very fine presentment of the 
noble brute in Nature. It is " the mighty boar," " bristled," 
" tusked," and foaming. " Fierce as forest boar " is a con- 
s:antly recurring simile in verse, and its " headlong rush " 
through the brake a famiiiar figure. But Spenser makes 
the quaint error of supposing that boars eat camels — 

" He shortly met the tiger and the boar, 
Which with the simple camel raged sore 
In bitter words, seeking to take occasi"n 
Upon his fleshy corpse to make invasion." 

And so err all those poets who make it carnivorous. 
"Throw me to the wild boar " to be devoured is as absurd 
in Heber as " the boars that roar through the woods " of 
Ossian. 

Perhaps the good bishop had in his mind that episode 
in the Seven Champions of Christendom, where St James 
of Spain goes a-hunting with Neburazadan, the King of 
Jerusalem, and by the slaying of a great man-eating boar 
wins the Hebrew's daughter. He found it, we are told, 
lying in its mossy den, gnawing the mangled joints of 
some passenger whom it had murdered as he travelled 
through the forest. It was of wonderful length and size, 



Beasts of Chase. 2 1 5 

and so terrible to behold, that at first sight it almost 
daunted the courage of the Spanish knight ; for its mon- 
strous head seemed ugly and deformed, its eyes sparkled 
like a fiery furnace, its tusks, more sharp than spikes of steel, 
and from its nostrils fumed such a violent breath, that it 
seemed like a tempestuous whirlwind ; his bristles were 
harder than seven times solid brass, and his tail more 
loathsome than a wreath of snakes. A gruesome beast, 
indeed ! — and standing in no need of the wings which 
^lian gives to the Flying Hog of Clazomenae to make it 
worthy the steel of a knight of Christendom. 

But Pope need not have described the wild boar " in 
silence creeping " upon a sleeping youth, and goring him 
"with unrelenting tooth." It is far too "generous," in the 
poets' sense, to attack a sleeping adversary. Why, too, 
should Scott go out of his way to call it " the felon boar ? " 
The abuse is not more just than that poet's frequent 
plagiarisms are creditable. 

" No man who has not been an eyewitness of the 
desperate courage of the wild hog would believe in his utter 
recklessness of life, or in the fierceness that will make him 
run up the hunter's spear, which has passed through his 
vitals, until he buries his tusk in the body of the horse or his 
rider." " No animal exceeds him in ferocity ; he will boldly 
charge the largest elephant who may have disturbed him 
without further provocation." "There is hardly a more 
dangerous brute to cope with. He will fight to the last, 
and then die game." 

These are quotations from the foremost of Indian sports- 
men and naturalists — Elliot, Shakespeare, Kinloch, Jerdon, 
and others of equally established reputation. 

They are of the fighting caste — Gadites — men of war from 
their youth up. If they meet each other there is a duel at 
once ; any other beast, and a fight immediately commences. 
They have absolutely no idea of giving way, or yielding the 



216 The Poets' Beasts. 

path. It is ro be res with them, always the cestus. 

They with the bare lance-point. 

Their challenge is "to the de. • the poets always 

have them in conflict. 

" As wilde bores gan they togeder smite, 

bite as fome for anger wood." 

" As when two bores with rankling malice met, 

Their gory sides fresh-bleeding fiercely fret, 

Where foaming wrath their cruel tusks they whet, 
And trample :'.. ire, 

Then back to fight again." 

Chaucer and Spenser are especially fond of the wild boar 

simile, and emp". . great effect for their furious 

knights. " Hurtling round, advantage for to take,'' 

ifering and foaming," and "grime with his teeth so 

was he wroth." L-:l: poets take their cues of course from 

. elder. Thomson has "the brindled boar grins fell 
destruction : ' ; Gray, " the tusky boar on surrounding foes 
advanced." 1 _h from Nature — 

" Contending 1 tusk enamelled, strike 

And guard wuh shoulder shield the blow oblique, 
While female bands attend in mute su: 
And view the victor with admiring eyes." 

But the wild hog, if I am not mistaken, is monogamous. 
Gay, too, has a sketch of combatant boars which reads — from 
the introduction of "Westphalia" and the "mire" — as a 
mock-heroic. 

when two boars in wild Vtene bred, 
Or on Westphalia's fat'ning chestnuts fed, 
Gnash their sharp tusks, and, roused with equal fire, 

_:te the reign of some luxurious mire ; 
In the black flood they wallow o'er and oer, 

gore." 



Beasts of Chase. 2 1 7 

Byron has an admirable line, " the lion and his tusky 
V." for though the two animals are not found together 
— except so infrequently that the error is not justified — the 
"rebel" is one of the wild boar's most notable characters. 
The tiger is his natural Raja, but he revolts at the first 
menace of oppression. The jungle path is his as much as 
the tiger's, he says, and if they meet, the pig as often as not 
joins issue as to the right of way. " The native Shikarries 
affirm that the wild boar will quench his thirst at the river 
between two tigers, and I (Shakespeare) believe this to be 
strictly the truth. The tiger and the boar have been heard 
fighting in the jungle at night, and both have been found 
dead alongside of one another in the morning/' "Though 
the wild hog often becomes the tiger's prey, it sometimes 
falls a victim to the successful resistance of its intended 
victim. I (Elliot) once found a full-grown tiger nearly 
killed by the rip of a boar's tusk, and two similar instances 
were related to me by a gentleman who had witnessed them, 
one of a tiger, the other of a panther."' 

Once upon a time the boar was lord of British woodlands, 
and, as Thomson says — 

" The sad barbarian, roving, mixed 
With beasts of prey, or for his acorn meal 
Fought the fierce tusky boar." 

As a beast of chase it was extant in England up to the 
Stuarts' time. 

According to Bell, "about the year 940 the laws of Hoel 
Dha direct that it shall be lawful for the chief of his hunts- 
men to chase the boar of the woods from the 5th of the 
Ides of November (9th) until the Calends of December 
(1st)." In the next century. Bell states that "the numbers 
had perhaps begun to diminish, since a forest law of 
William I., established in 10S7, ordained that any who were 
found guilty of killing the stag, the roebuck, or the wild 



2i8 The Pods Beasts. 

boar, should have the eyes put out, and sometimes the 
penalty appears to have been a painful death. It appears," 
continues Bell, " that Charles I. turned out some wild swine 
in the New Forest for the purpose of restoring the breed to 
that royal hunting-ground, but they were all of them de- 
stroyed during the civil war. A similar attempt was made 
in Bere Wood in Dorsetshire, but one of the boars having 
injured a valuable horse belonging to the wealthy Nimrod 
who exhibited this specimen of sporting epicurism, he 
caused them to be destroyed." 

The wild boar probably became extinct in Britain before 
the reign of Charles I. ; while in Ireland it was abundant as 
late as the seventeenth century. 

Spenser's touches and descriptions are from the life, no 
doubt. He must have seen Leicester, Essex, Sidney, 
Raleigh, and others go out hunting, perhaps went with 
them, and on his estate (some 3000 acres, with a rental of 
^17) in Ireland must have been familiar enough with the 
wild boar as a tenant. 

Somerville, therefore, wrote too late to speak of the animal 
— "churning his foam, and on his back erect his pointed 
bristles rising" — except from hearsay, and "young Red- 
mond" of Rokeby, that "gallant boy in hunter's green" 
who 

" Loved to wake the felon boar 
In his dark lair on Greta's shore," 

lived barely in time to save Sir Walter from an anachronism. 
The genius of Shakespeare presents the fierce beast to the 
life, " with frothy mouth bepainted all with red, like milk 
and blood being mingled both together." The " blunt " 
boar he calls it, " the foul, grim, urchin-snouted boar, whose 
downward eyes still looketh for a grave." But Venus' 
description is matchless. It has all the majesty of Job's 
poem on Leviathan. 



Beasts of Chase. 2 1 9 

" I lis tushes, never sheathed, he whetteth still, 
Like to a mortal butcher, bent to kill. 
On his bow-back he hath a battle set 
Of bristly pikes, that ever threat his foes ; 
His eyes, like glow-worms, shine when he doth fret ; 
His snout digs sepulchres where'er he goes ; 
Being moved, he strikes whate'er is in his way, 
And whom he strikes his cruel tushes slay. 
His brawny sides, with hairy bristles armed, 
Are better proof than thy spear's point can enter ; 
His short thick neck cannot be easily harmed ; 
Being ireful, on the lion he will venture ; 
The thorny brambles and embracing bushes, 
As fearful of him, part, through whom he rushes." 

Keats, too, well imagines the scene " when snouted wild 
boars rooting the tender corn " anger the huntsmen ; for it is 
a shrewd beast at furrowing up a field. " The rage of a wild 
boar is able to spoil more than one wood," says Herbert. 

But Somerville, in his sketch of the " Arabian " chasing 
the animal, is somewhat " out of the hunt : " 

" The grisly boar is singled from his herd 
As large as that in Enmanthean woods 
A match for Hercules. Round him they fly 
In circles wide, and each in passing sends 
His feathered death into his brawny sides ; 
But perilous the attempt, for if the steed 
Haply too near approach, or the loose earth 
His footing fail, the watchful angry beast 
TV advantage spies, and, at one sidelong glance, 
Rips up his groin. 

Wounded, he rears aloft, 
And, plunging, from his back the rider hurls 
Precipitant ; then, bleeding, spurns the ground, 
And drags his reeking entrails o'er the plain. 
Meanwhile the surly monster hurls along, 
But with unequal speed, for still they wound, 
Swift wheeling in the spacious ring. A wood 
Of darts upon his back he bears : adown 
Pours many a gaping font ; and now, at last, 
Staggering he falls, in blood and foam expires." 



220 The Poets Beasts. 

The Greeks and Romans, when they hunted him — 
" Adonis' bane " — took extraordinary precautions for their 
personal safety. They went in large parties, keeping 
together, and were attended by the largest and fiercest 
hounds — Locrian, Spartan, or Cretan. Xets were carried 
with them to throw over the brute, and the javelins used 
were of a specially murderous description. 

In metaphor the boar is singularly rare. Burns has a 
"wild Scandinavian boar" that issued forth "to wanton in 
carnage and wallow in gore," but. changing the beast in the 
next line into the plural, " brave Caledonia in vain they 
assailed, as Largs well can witness and Loncartie tell." In 
Gray's " Bard" we find the English king "the bristled boar 
that in infant gore wallows beneath the thorny shade ; " and 
Dryden has a semi-domesticated hog as the type of the 
Baptist — 

" The bristled baptist boar, impure as he, 
But whitened with the form of sanctity, 
With fat pollutions filled the sacred place, 
And mountains levelled in his furious race ; 
So first rebellion founded was in grace. 
But since the mighty ravage which he made 
In German forests had his guilt betrayed, 
With broken tusks, and with a borrowed name, 
He shunned the vengeance and concealed the shame.'' 

Yet in folk-lore and myth it is a constantly recurring and a 
very formidable figure 

It is sacred to Scandinavian Thor, and drags the car 
of Freyya, its bristles golden, its head refulgent Vishnu 
appears as the tusked one, the irresistible piercer ; and the 
thunderbolts, the fathers of the winds, are red boars, 
horned, bristled, and fierce. 

Once upon a time the Trinity of the Hindoos disputed 
for supremacy. Brahma, seated on his lotus, could see 
nothing else in the universe, and so said to himself, " I am 



Beasts of Chase. 2 2 1 

the beginning of all." But he descended the stalk and came 
upon Vishnu asleep. " Who are you?" he asked. " I am 
the beginning of all things," was the reply. Then Brahma 
raised his arm to strike. But on a sudden Shiva stood 
before them. " What are you quarrelling about ? Am not 
I, Shiva, the first-born ? Which of you can see either the 
crown of my head or the soles of my feet ? " Brahma stood 
aghast ; but Vishnu without a word plunged down, and, 
ripping up the universe, pierced below the infernal regions, 
and lo ! the feet of Shiva. So the two others did obeisance 
to him, the sharp-tusked one. 

It was one of the labours of Hercules to kill a boar. 
Meleager's hunt — 

" A great boar, that no man could withstand, 
And many a woe he wrought upon the land " — 

gathered all the heroes of Greece together, and for the 
trophy of the brute's hide cities went to war. Indras, in 
that he slew the boar that guarded the Demons' treasure, 
proudly wore its tusks. Mars protected it as the warrior 
among the beasts : it was once the badge of Rome. 

Even the Christians' boar's head, "crested with bays and 
rosemary," is said to have honorific origin, as a symbol 
of gloomy winter slain at the solstice. ' ; Aper significat 
Diabolum," quoth Du Cange. 

He is always obtrusive, assailing. Gods and heroes are 
perpetually after him. There is no guardian of a treasure 
like him, except perhaps the griffin. It is no use trying to 
pipe him to bed. He will see the whole of Argus asleep 
and still be awake. He would have rooted Medea out of the 
garden in no time and tusked Mercury if he had not been 
too nimble with those heels of his. You never meet with 
him, in myth, in an amiable mood. He is either red, the 
colour of fury, or black, the hue of mischief, malignity, and 
diabolism. He hurtles about bristling and demoniacal. 



: : : The Poets Beasts. 

With the poets the deer is a universal favourite. M The 
■:-d stag" _ of ten, bearing his 

branches stuidil; - - makes a stanza go 

Even Ossian's tiresome " dun sons of the bound- 
ing hind, the dark-brown deer of Cromla," relieve the 
ry monotony of the Phairson's native heath. Every 
poet likes to talk about them — 

•.'ill herds 
TL: no noise but that of chattering bii 

ie lawns : both s ;.ned deer, 

Here walk the stately Red. the freckled Fallow there 
The Bu: S he Rascals strewed, 

■ among the multitude." 

And they all agree in paying tribute to its courage — " When 
at bay a desperate foe." 

They exult in its escape. Thus even Somerville— 

"Heaver. te roebuck swift 

Lc . - driving pack, 

And mod-: pursuit. Nor far he flie;, 

the streaming scent 
That freshens on the .heir rage. 

I eir speed, his weak, deluded foes 
Sc •: red to excess, each nerve, 

■cb slackened sinew fails: they pant, they foam. 
Tr.tr. o'er the lawn he bounds, o'er the high 

:-. and leaves the scattered crowd 
To puzzle in the distant vale below." 

So, too, Scott seems glad when the " antlered monarch 

of the glen" baulks those dogs "of black St. Hubert's 

breed," and, dashing down "into the Trosach's wildest 

nook," is soon "lost to hound and hunter's ken," and from 

.ace of refuge 

" Hears the baffled dogs in vain 
Rave he hollow pass amain, 

at yelled a. 



Beasts of Chase. 223 

When it dies the poets weep with it. If it is a fawn no 
Lesbia sheds such tears over her sparrow. Read, for instance, 
Marvell's dainty poem. But it is a pity that he, so true, 
as a rule, to Nature, should err (with many other poets) in 
making fawns " white." 

" I have a garden of my own, 
And all the spring-time of the year 
It only loved to be there: 
Among the bed of lillies I 
Have sought it oft where it should lye, 
But could not, till itself should rise, 
Find it, although before mine eyes ; 
For in the flaxen lillies' shade 
It like a bunch of lillies laid. 
Upon the roses it would feed 
Until its lips e'en seemed to bleed, 
And then to me 'twould boldly trip 
And print those roses on my lip." 

But the wanton troopers riding by shot the fawn, and it 

died — 

" Ungentle men ! they cannot thrive 
Who killed thee. Thou ne'er didst alive 
Them any harm : alas ! nor could 
Thy death yet do them any good. 

And nothing may we use in vain ; 
Even beasts must be with justice slain; 
Else men are made their deodands." 

Nor, when full-grown and antlered, does sympathy cease. 
Thus in Phineas Fletcher's poem — 

" Look as a stagge pierced with a fatal blow, 
As by a wood he walks securely feeding — 
In coverts thick conceals his deadly blow, 
And feeling death swim in his endless bleeding, 
His heavy head his fainting strength exceeding — 
Bids woods adieu, so sinks into his grave ; 
Green brakes and primrose sweet his seemly herse embrave. 

In the actual chase itself the poets' sympathies ate never 



224 The Poets Beasts. 

far behind the deer. Drayton is a poet who is seldom read, 
but as he lived in the days when stags were running wild in 
England he is well worth the hearing — quite apart from the 
rare robustness of his verse — 

"The best of chase, the tall and lusty Red, 
The stag for goodly shape and statelinesse of head, 
Is fitt'st to hunt at force." 

Such is the beast he starts with. He shows us the 
huntsman in " the thicke," tracking it by its slot or by his 
wood-craft, and then on a sudden the stag, startled by the 
"bellowing hounds," rushes out — 

" He through the brakes doth drive, 
As though up by the roots the bushes he would rive." 

The hounds fall to, the horns are blown, and the quarry's 
afoot — 

" The lusty stag his high palmed head upbears, 

His body showing state, with unbent knees upright, 
Expressing (from all beasts) his courage in his flight." 

But the pack come up to him, and then he exerts his 
utmost speed. The baying of the hounds dies away, and 
the stag, to baffle further pursuit, "doth beat the brooks 
and ponds," and "makes among the herds and flocks of 
shag-woolled sheep." But wherever he goes he finds him- 
self shunned or opposed. In the fields the ploughman 
goes after him with his goad, "while his team he letteth 
stand." In the pasture the shepherd chases him, "and to 
his dog doth halow." And all this time the hounds come 
creeping up again, while the stag has wearied itself in futile 
stratagem. " Through toyle bereaved of strength, his long 
and sinewy legs are fayling him at length." A village comes 
in his way, and he flies for safety to the abodes of men ; 
but the people turn out and drive him forth. There are the 
hounds, full in sight ; so there is nothing for it but to stand 
at bav. " Some bank or quick set finds, to which his haunch 



Beasts of Chase. 225 

opposed, he turns upon his foes," and as the "churlish- 
throated " hounds attack him " dealeth deadly blows with 
his sharp-pointed head." Then the huntsmen come up, 
and one of them kills the stag. And so 

" Opprest by force, 
He who the mourner is to his own dying corse 
Upon the ruthless earth his precious tear lets fall." 

Thomson's sententious caricature of this passage in his 
11 Autumn " is well worth noting, but as the poet only knew 
of fallow deer he makes the stag " spotted " in the face and 
" chequered " in the sides. But in all matters of fact his 
animal is simply Somerville's. It starts off with all its faith 
in its own speed, " bursts through the thickets," and goes 
away. But — 

" Slow of sure, adhesive to the track, 
Hot-steaming up behind him come again 
The inhuman rout." 

And then "oft to full-descending flood he turns," and "oft 
seeks the herd." But his "'once so vivid nerves" begin to 
fail, and "he stands at bay," "putting his last weak refuge 
in despair " — 

" The bi;_j round tears run down his dappled face ; 
He groans in anguish while the growling pack, 
Blood-happy, hang at his fair jutting cheek 
And mark his beauteous checkered sides with gore." 

In metaphor also the deer symbol is often used as of a 
creature that may lay claim to superior intelligence and 
special protection. Thus in Quarles — 

•■ Great God of hearts, the world's sole sov'raign Ranger, 
Preserve Thy deer, and let my soul be blest 
In Thy safe forrest when I seek for rest : 
Then let the hell-hounds roar, I fear no ill, 
Rouse me they may, but have no power to kill." 

P 



226 The Poets' Beasts. 

The hare is certainly one of the best hunted of animals, 
and Swift puts its perpetual pursuit delightfully into rhyme — 

" A hare had long escaped pursuing hounds, 
By often shifting into distant grounds, 
Till finding artifices vain, 
To save his life he leaped into the main ; 
But there, alas, he could no safety find, 
A pack of dogfish had him in the wind. 
He scours away ; and, to avoid the foe, 
Descends for shelter to the shades below. 
There Cerberus lay watching in his den, 
He had not seen a hare the Lord knows when. 
Out bounced the mastiff with the triple head, 
Away the hare with triple swiftness fled, 
Hunted from earth and sea and hell, he flies 
(Fear lent him wings) for safety to the skies : 
Sirius, the fiercest of the heavenly pack, 
Failed but an inch to seize him by the back ! " 

Over this universal huntedness of the hare, the poets 
maintain a very even quarrel. Some applaud the sport, 
others condemn it. While Gay goes into raptures over 
coursing, Somerville calls it a "mean, murderous" pastime, 
and gravely invokes the retributive hand of Heaven upon 
the "vile crew "-who follow it — 

" Nor the tim'rous hare 
O'ermatched destroy, but leave that vile offence 
To the mean murd'rous coursing crew, intent 
On blood and spoil. O blast their hopes, just Heaven ! 
And all their painful drudgeries repay 
With disappointment and severe remorse." 

Not that Somerville was not really more cruel than Gay 
(who was merely thoughtless), but he thought coursing 
hares was wasting them. He insisted on their being hunted 
with beagles. Drayton has a straightforward description 
of coursing without effusion of sentiment which Dryden 
seems to borrow (for the occurrence can hardly be called a 
familiar one) — 



Beasts of Chase. 227 

" So have I seen some fearful hare maintain, 
A course, till tired before the dog she lay, 
Who stretched behind her pants upon the plain, 
Past power to kill, as she to get away." 

On the other side are ranged all the rural poets : Hurdis, 
Clare, Grahame, Bloomfield, Burns, and the rest ; and 
Cowper, Thomson, and Wordsworth weigh in their sym- 
pathies with the gentler majority — 

" Poor is the triumph o'er the timid hare, 
O'er a weak, harmless flying creature " — 

and delight with Grahame in her escape either by her fleet- 
ness of foot, when — 

" She scorns 
Thy utmost speed, and from the thistly lea 
Espies secure thy puzzled fruitless search ;_" 

or by her cunning, when — 

" With step reversed 
She forms the doubling maze, then ere the morn 
Peeps through the clouds, leaps to her close recess ; " 

or by some accident, as when, according to Grahame, — 

("As erst befell in Clyde's fair dale) 
She gain some floating rick ; there close she squats, 
Now in the middle current shot along 
In swift career, now near the eddying side, 
Whirling amazed. 

. , . Onward meanwhile she sails, 
Till through the broadened vale, the stream expands 
In gentle curve and gliding past the bank 
Restores her, fearful, to the fields again." 

Nor are coursing, hunting, and poaching the whole 
of the hare's grievances, for, as Clare laments, there still 
remains the gun. 



228 . Poets Beasts. 

In ng foes to s-hnn, 

.s run." 

not mortal, and several 
poet; maimed existence. 

..ane protests against an unintentional 
E D : D ; — 

field, 
The I - ns ; 

nt plains 
me yield. 
j 

The -ad, 

~ :.t ::._ t -:::. ~ '.:':. : y ': . ;■>,- bosom prest 

rait 
x&] davra, 

I TO, 

IB, and m: . 

E most melancholy, limping, 

-ble — intended, apparently, by 

.-gles, and given an extra- 

.n order to amuse greyhounds. 

Son.. it and, consideri \ it already 

tural timidity and general help- 

\ if is a shame. . ument is 

_ - . i the poor thing looks, 

dor. . - - how fast the unhappy wretch 

is the triumph o'er 

a weak, harmless, flying creature " — 

-.aken of the sport by the minority, their 

. marked by true pathos, as 

— 



Beasts of C/iase. 229 

" And, as an hare whom hounds and horns pursue, 
Pants to the place from whence at first she flew, 
I still had hopes, my long vexations past, 
Here to return, and die at home at last." 

And what can be finer than the distracted Paphian's descrip- 
tion of the hunted hare ? 

" His grief may be compared well 
To one sore-sick, that hears the passing bell. 
Then shalt thou see the dew-bedabbled wretch 
Turn and return, indenting with the way ; 
Each envious briar his wear)- legs doth scratch, 
Each shadow makes him stop, each murmur stay : 
For misery is trodden on by many, 
And being low, never relieved by any." 

The rest, strangely enough for poets perhaps, seem to 
accept the fitness of the hare to be hunted as a matter of 
course, its suitableness for " the chase " a provision of 
Nature. " If thou needs will hunt," says Venus, " be ruled 
by me, uncouple at the timorous, flying hare." 

Pope, Gay, Rowe, Mallet, Drayton, and Somerville are 
instances in point. Thus the author of " Polyolbion " — 

" The man whose vacant mind prepares him for the sport 
The Finder sendeth forth to seek out nimble Wat 
Which crosseth in the field each furlong, every flat, 
Till he this pretty beast upon the Forme hath found. 
Then, viewing for the course which is the fairest ground, 
The greyhounds forth are brought, for coursing then in case, 
And choicely in the slip, one leading forth a brace, 
The finder puts her up and gives her courser's law ; 
Then whilst the eager dogs upon the start do draw 
She riseth from her seat, as though on earth she flew, 
Forced by some yelping curre to give the greyhounds view, 
Which are at length let slip, when leaping out they goe, 
As in respect of them the swiftest wind were slow, 
When each man runs his horse, with fixed eyes, and notes 
Which dog first turnes the hare, which first the other coats, 
Till oft for want of breath to fall to ground they make her, 
The greyhounds both so spent that they want breath to take her." 



230 The Poets Be.rs/s. 

Gay was not much of a sportsman, as he himself confesses, 
for, finding himself committed to the subject of rural sports, 
he feels that he cannot do less than, at any rate, refer, in 
passing, to hunting as one of them ; but he pulls himself up 
with pleasing frankness and a " what on earth do I know 
about it " sort of apology — 

" The theme demands a more experienced lay. 
Ye mighty hun'.eis ! spare this weak essay." 

Fishing was his weakness, with a fly by preference ; but still 
he breaks out into an artless linnet-chirrup about "the 
chase, a pleasing task." He confines his remarks to hare- 
hunting, and thus abruptly finishes Wat off — 

i- New strategems and doubling wiles she tries — 
N v circling turns, and now at large she flies — 
Till, spent at last, she pants and heaves for breath, 
Then lays her down and waits devouring death ! " 

Somerville is, however, par txcdUnct u the poet of the 
chase," and the second book of his poem, which is mainly 
concerned with hare-hunting, cannot be passed over without 
becoming notice. 

Commencing with some general remarks about " that 
instinct which, unerring, guides the brutal race, which 
mimics reason's lore, and oft transcends," he passes on to 
the special instinct " that directs the jealous hare to choose 
her soft abode " and " oft quit her seat, lest some curious 
eye should mark her haunt." He then describes the 
changes which she makes, according to the season, "as 
fancy prompts her or as food invites," and counsels the 
huntsman to make a note of them, as otherwise his labours 
will be wasted in looking for hares in places they are not 
likely to be, and " his impatient hounds, with disappoint- 
ment vexed, each springing lark, babbling pursue, far scat- 
tered o'er the fields." 



Beasts of Chase. 231 

So supposing it to be autumn, and the crops all gathered 
off the ground, he starts out with his harriers — 

" The gay pack 
In the rough, bristly stubbles range unblamed : 
No widow's tears o'erflow, no secret curse 
Swells in the farmer's breast, which his pale lips, 
Trembling, conceal, by his fierce landlord awed : 
But courteous now he levels every fence, 
Joins in the common cry, and halloos loud, 
Charmed with the rattling thunder of the field." 

The pack is thrown off; after a while the old hound, with 
his "authentic voice, avows the recent trail," and away they 
go. But a double gives them a check, and then they steady 
down, working the fallow in a business-like way, and all of 
a sudden the huntsman himself comes upon puss in her 
form, and away she bolts. The hounds are laid on, and 
" as winds let loose, from the dark caverns of the blustering 
god, they burst away." 

" Xow, my brave youths ! 
Stripped for the chase, give all your souls to joy ; " 

for the hare "o'er plains remote now stretches far away." 
The country side is up at the sound of the " clanging 
horns;" the schoolboy, dreading no more the "afflictive 
birch," runs out of school to see the hunt go by; the 
travellers on the roads climb up to the highest spots ; the 
shepherd and ploughman leave their work ; the peasants 
"desert the unpeopled village." 

" And wild crowds 
Spread o'er the plains, by the sweet frenzy seized." 

The hare doubles again, gets behind the pack, and " seems 
to pursue the foe she flies." 

" Let cavillers deny 
That brutes have reason : Sure 'tis something more. 
'Tis heaven directs, and stratagems inspires, 
Beyond the short extent of human thought." 



: - : ^sfs. 

But the hounds find her out and the pack sees her s: 
on an eminence, u hstening with one ear erect,'* and • 
dering what to do next, "pondering and doubtful what new 
course to take." At length she decides to trust to her 
heels again, and is off — 

" Once more, ye jovial train, your courage 

She has gone uphill, which takes it out of the hounds, and 
down the steep other side, which takes it out of the ric 
but "smoking along the .he hunt has the hare full in 

A Bock of sheep baulks the hounds for a while, but 
they take up the " streaming scent ■ again, and M the rustling 
stubbies bend beneath the driving storm " of harriers — 

• ' 2 •" ■•.'.-. :• y :: r :'..:. 5 ; 
Begins to flag, to her last shifts reduced. 
From brake to brake she flies, and visits all 
Her well-known haunts, where once she ranged secure, 
With love and plenty blessed. See ! there she goes ; 
She reels along, and by her gait bet: 
Her inward weakness. See how black she looks. 
The sweat that clogs the obstructed pores scarce leaves 
A :.:-__ ;;;-:. 

And now in open view 
See, see ! she flies ; each eager hound exerts 
His utmost speed, and s:re:ches i 
How quick she turns, their gaping jaws eludes, 

-reedy pack, with infant screams 
She yields her breath, and there, reluctant, 

r this, of course, there is nothing to come but e 
tion and, for the hounds, a taste of blood — 

• • The huntsman now a deep incision makes, 
Shakes out with hands impure, and dashes down, 
Her reeking entrails and yet quivering heart 
"'...--.- :".;.:-■. ■'. . 7 -:'/.. :'. - '.'.■- !y"r -_•: :u -::e 
Of ail their toils. Stretched on the ground she lies 
A mangled corse ; in her dim-glaring eyes 
Cold death exults and stifl . :ob." 



Beasts of Chase. 2 \ \ 

After all this, the poet— the pod, remember— says this— 

" Thus the poor hare, 
A puny, dastard animal, diverts the youthful train. " 

The fox— what an endless theme the mere name sug- 
gests ! The stanchest pen might well despair of running 
down a creature of such interminable breath, such im & - 
measurable craft. 

A proverb says that all the cloth of Ghent, if it were 
turned into parchment, would not hold the stories of vulpine 
perfidy and sagacity, and though several scholars have 
devoted themselves to the -epic exploit" of this little 
animal, it seems to be far from exhausted. Yet its character 
is by no means altogether despicable. Bacon and Machia- 
velh say that for success a little of the fox is indispensable. 
Pope has a line to the effect that -the lion's skin is length- 
ened by the fox's tail "-a repetition of Lysander's apothegm, 
V\hen the lions skin does not suffice, add on that of the 
fox 

Fortunately the poets' fox has but one aspect-the dis- 
peop ler of the poultry-yard. It eats chickens, therefore it 
should be vindictively hunted to death. 

In the East the fox is not a familiar beast. It lives a 
secluded life, and seldom haunts the abodes of men The 
jackal, therefore, is the original of those Oriental myths 
which European fabulists have adapted, and wherein the 
U estern fox takes the place of its foreign congener The 
two animals have very much in common in habits and 
character, though the fox is the superior in physical en- 
durance, speed, and, perhaps, courage. I qualify my 
opinion on the last point, because it may be that the 
appearance of inferior pluck in the jackal may be really 
only due to an extra measure of that astute discretion 
which has made this animal the foremost figure in myth 
and folk-lore. 



234 The Poets Beasts. 

If we accept the myth translations of Gubernatis we see 
in the fox-jackal the ruddy interval between daylight and 
darkness that shades off bye-and-bye into twilight-grey with 
black night-points. It is the crepuscular phenomenon of 
the heavens taking an animal form. But just as there are two 
" auroras," the morning and the evening, so the fox-jackal has 
in every twenty-four hours two chances at the sun-cock, both 
of which it punctually fails to score, missing the solar fowl 
with an invariable accuracy that ought by this time to have 
had a depressing effect upon Reynard. 

In fables the character of the fox is also dual. It is 
generally the deceiver, but also on occasions the dupe. 
Many animals on occasion fall a victim to it — in the single 
romance of Reincke Fuchs it outwits and infamously ruins 
the king-lion and pretty nearly all his courtier quadrupeds — 
but every now and again the same animals flout it, make 
fun of it, play tricks on it. Even cocks and kids have a 
joke occasionally at its expense, which is very true to 
nature, for we often see the professional sharper, the habitual 
traitor, exposed and put to shame by simple honesty or 
innocent mother wit. Betty with her mop routs the fencing- 
master. But, above all, the fox is always beaten when he 
tries to pass off his dishonesties upon other foxes ; the 
rogues know each other too well to try to guess where the 
pea is. So when the fox falls by accident into a dyer's vat, 
and comes out. a fine blue all over, he goes back to his 
kindred and tells them that he is a peacock of the sky. But 
they recognise his voice, and worry him till they pull all his 
blue fur off, and he dies. Stories of the same purport are 
abundant and familiar to all. 

Yet there are plenty of occasions in which the fox behaves 
very honourably to its friends, and appears in the light of a 
benefactor, notably, in those tales where Reynard plays the 
part of Puss-in-boots, such as Cosmo the Quickly Enriched, 
and others. Moreover, the cock is sometimes found on the 



Beasts of Chase. 255 

most friendly relations with the fox, who helps it against 
their common enemy, the wolf. 

It is almost needless to say that many poets condemn 
fox-hunting, "which rural gentlemen call sport divine," and 
perhaps superfluous to add that their reasons hardly justify 
their condemnation. To them the sportsman appears some- 
thing rather less than human — 

" To the field he flies, 
Leaps every fence but one, then falls and dies 
Like a slain deer ; the tumbril brings him home, 
Unmissed but by his dogs and by his groom.". 

Especially does this class of poet detest to see women in 
the field — 

" Far be the spirit of the chase from them ! 
Uncomely courage, unbeseeming skill, 
To spring the fence, to rein the prancing steed." 

They hope "such horrid joy" will never -'stain the bosom 
of the British fair." 

Nor when they come to discriminate between one kind of 
sport and another is their argument such as to increase 
respect for their opinion. When Venus implores her darling 
not to hunt fierce beasts, but, if he must hunt, to go after 
the " timid hare," there is womanly reason enough in what 
she says. But when Thomson begs "ye Britons" not to 
hunt the poor "dappled " stag with the "chequered" sides, 
nor the "flying hare," but, if they must hunt, to ride after 
the fox, " the nightly robber of the fold," and, " pitiless, 
pour their sportive fury " upon it, the fustian of his senti- 
ment is neither masculine nor feminine. 

This idea, that Englishmen hunt the fox because it 
eats ducks, is quite a common one with the poets, and 
justifies, to their minds, the chase of it. So that it seems 
incredible that they could ever have seen a fox-hunter, 
still less have heard him speak with admiration, pride, even 



2;6 



The Poets Beasts. 



affection, of the staunch, plucky, little beast that had given 
him a fast run, and saved its brush after all. At any rate, 
the idea that the animal is hunted because it kills chickens, 
and, therefore, richly deserves the worst that can happen 
to it, is utterly foreign to the character of "sport." The 
fact that foxes are preserved in order to be hunted should 
have corrected the theories of modern poets. 

With the otter it fares exactly the same. Because the 
beast catches fish which men wish to catch it is said to 
merit the death which overtakes it when the hounds pursue 
and tear it to pieces. They all seem to hate it, call it 
"felon," "robber," and "prowler," and Somerville descants 
at length in a very spirited but most deliberately cruel poem 
on the pleasures of murdering an otter. 




IX. 



THE POETS' FLOCKS. 



" Let me hear 
The morning uproar of the fleecy flock, 
What time, vociferous, their tardy march 
With baying curs impatient their rude load 
To the green pastures urge. Loud inquires 
The bleating mother for her sundered lamb, 
As loud complaining for his mother lost. 
With quick infallible perception, she, 
Amid the mingled outcry, hears distinct 
His slender shrill entreaty, he remote, 
With nicety that shames our grosser sense, 
Her voice acknowledges, and through the crowd 
Winds his insulted way." 

I think this stanza is exquisite, and, as a sketch straight 
from Nature, perfect. But the poets are, as a rule, excep- 
tionally happy in their treatment of sheep. Most of them 
are born shepherds. They seem to have an instinctive 
sympathy with the woolly folk. 

" To him the whistling ploughman's artless tune, 
The bleating flocks, the oxen's hollow crime, 
Give more delight than the Italian song." 

With what a nice accuracy they watch them ; how exactly 
faithful they are to the real life of the flocks. 

At morning the sheep-fold pours out its fleecy tenants 
"o'er the glade, and, first progressive in a stream, they seek 
the middle field, but scattered by degrees, each to his 



23S The Pol is Beasts. 

choice, soon whiten all the land" (Cowper). They are the 
"restless," "ever-wandering" sheep — 

" Russet lawn and fallows grey 
Where the nibbling flocks do stray.'' 

So the morning passes and the heat increases. "With 
numerous bleat," they seek the trees " spreading a shady 
boon," and "creep close by the grove, to hide from the 
rigours of day." Here they lie ruminating ; smoothing the 
knotted thorns by rubbing against them ; and then spread 
again over the land till evening, and " in the soft sunshine 
of departing day" the "cheerful lambs skip in the fields 
and lead the wanton race." The twilight falls, and 

" Every mother ruminates apart 
Recumbent in the dusk, and every son 
Sportful no longer, and his bleating hushed, 
Reclines expectant of the dewy night 
Fast by his chewing dam/' 

Or the shepherd convenes the flock, and they troop to the 
fold "with hurried bell and dust-i rovoking feet." 

Not that their days are altogether uneventful. Cowper's 
"Needless Alarm" is an excellent case in point, when they 
discuss the propriety of suicide in consequence of the over- 
whelming horrors of the approaching fox-hunt, thinking all 
the fiends are let loose upon themselves. The description 
of the mutton-headed folk is delightful — 

" Awhile they mused. Surveying every face, 
Thou hadst supposed them of superior race ; 
Ti.eir periwigs of wool and fears combined, 
Stamped on each countenance such marks of mind, 
That sage they seemed as lawyers o'er a doubt, 
;h, puzz'.ing long, at last they puzzle out." 

Sometimes, again, dogs worry the flock. Somerville pre- 
scribes the proper punishment for any hound caught in 
such an act — 



The Poets Flocks. 239 

" If at the crowding flock 
He bay presumptuous, or with eager haste 
Pursue them scattered o'er the verdant plain, 
In the foul fact attached, to the strong ram 
Tie fast the rash offender. See ! at first 
His horned companion, fearful and amazed, 
Shall drag him trembling o'er the rugged ground. 
Then, with his load fatigued, shall turn his head, 
And with his curled hard front incessant peal 
The panting wretch, till, breathless and astunned, 
Stretched on the turf he lie. Then spare not thou 
The twining whip, but ply his bleeding sides, 
Lash after lash, and with thy threat'ning voice 
Harsh echoing from the hills, inculcate loud 
His vile offence." 

Even if there is no malicious intent, the presence of a 
strange dog is enough to bring excitement into their day. 
"Look," says Hood, 

" How a panicked flock will stare, 
And huddle close and start and wheel about, 
Watching the roaming mongrel here and there;" 

and Grahame, how " the startled lambs with bickering haste, 
fly to their mother's side and gaze around." 

Sportsmen are out and the guns alarm them, as so many 
poets note. The passing train, the whirring covey, the 
shouting plough-boy, are each of them episodes of puzzling 
interest to the woolly ones. Yet they have their amuse- 
ments also. Panic is not their only dissipation. They are 
" sportive " — especially as lambs. 

" I am so old, so old I can write a letter, 
My birthday lessons are done ; 
The lambs play always, they know no better, 
They are only one times one." 

The lost lamb affords a theme for countless excellent 
passages. Who has not, in the course of a country walk, 
come, as Clare does, upon the small wanderer on the wron^ 



240 The Poets Beasts. 

side of the hedge, looking in vain for the hole it got 
through, "having no sense to find the same again," and 
" calling for help " as it trots up and down in nervous 
bewilderment, the mother meanwhile pacing backwards 
and forwards on the other side, and replying with a grave, 
troubled voice to the pitiful lamentations of her little one ? 
Indeed, getting lost or thinking that it is lost, and straight- 
way abandoning itself to an excessive pity for itself, is 
almost the normal condition of the lamb. 

" Soon lost and soon inquiring for its dam, 
Who bleats and mumbles at his slender call." 

As the " playful,"' " dancing " lamb, it is one of the 
insignia of the poets' Spring, its voice a " vernal note " like 
the linnet's, its presence contemporary with, and a co- 
efficient of, the budding flowers and sprouting leaves and 
birds' nests with their eggs. Spring personified comes with 
" whinny braes all garianded with gold " (Grahame), and 
with lambkins sporting round her, " full of May.'' Its asso- 
ciation with the linnet is often very prettily worked in, as 
where Crabbe has " browsing by the linnet's bed," and 
Grahame, the lamb chasing his twin round and round " the 
linnet's bush." In Phineas Fletcher's eclogue one of the 
features of the vernal season is the lamb ; " they forget 
their food to mind their sweeter play," and so too in 
Bloomfield's " Spring " this charming adjunct of the young 
year finds, with characteristic affection for Nature, con- 
spicuous description. The passage commencin_ — 

" A few begin a short but vigorous race, 
And indolence astonished soon flies the place. 
Thus challenged forth, see thither, one by one, 
From every side assembling playmates run," 

makes a delightful vignette. 

But of all the metaphors and similes drawn from this 
austible source, I would give the palm to Lovelace's — 



The Poets Flocks. 241 

" Lost hearts, like lambs drove from their fields by fears, 
May back return by chance, but not by tears." 

Then comes Summer, when the flies are abroad, and the 
shearers a-field — " what time the new-shorn flock stand here 
and there, with huddled head, impatient of the fly." No 
one who knows the midsummer pastures can have missed 
noticing how the restless sheep, worried by insects, can 
hardly venture to stand still to eat a mouthful, but nibble 
and walk at the same time, and pitied the poor wretches 
for their uncomfortable feeding ; or how, in despair, they 
congregate, and, hiding their faces under each other, try to 
baulk the indefatigable "bot." How carefully they keep 
their noses down in the grass, even though too fidgety to 
eat, and then suddenly, when one gives the alarm, how the 
whole company decamps from one side of the field to the 
other. Not that the shepherd can do much for them ; as 
a rule, he merely leans on the gate, and extends a passive 
sympathy ; so that Quarles' " Emblem," taken from this 
pastoral incident, would seem somewhat wide of the fact — 

" Look how the sheep, whose rambling steps do stray 
From the safe keeping of the shepherd's eye, 
Eftsoon becomes the unprotected prey 

Of the winged squadron of beleaguering fly." 

The shearing of the sheep, once an acknowledged rural 
festival, gives poetry many a charming passage — as " the 
gambols and wild freaks at shearing-time," when, after the 
creatures, soused one by one into the pool, had been 
hurdled up, and the shearer got him ready for his work, the 
"queen" of the day, with her chosen "shepherd-kin.-." 
came, with bravery of summer flowers, and bright clothes 
and rustic music, upon the scene, and, the short day's work 
over, headed the long evening's revels — 

" The chief, in gracious dignity enthroned, 
Shines o'er the rest, the pastoral queen, and lays 

Q 



242 The Poets Beasts. 

Her smiles, sweet-beaming, on her shepherd-king, 
While the glad circle round them yield their souls 
To festive mirth and wit that knows no gall." 

Thomson's description of the scene, " while, ever and 
anon, to his shorn peers a ram goes bleating " (Keats), is 
excellent — 

" In one diffusive band 
They drive the troubled flocks, by many a dog 
Compelled, to where the mazy, running brook 
Forms a deep pool : this bank, abrupt and hi^h, 
And that fair-spreading in a pebbled shore, 
Urged to the giddy brink, much is the toil, 
The clamour much of men and boys and dogs, 
Ere the soft, fearful people to the flood 
Commit their woolly sides. And oft the swain, 
On some impatient seizing, hurls them in : 
Emboldened then, nor hesitating more, 
Fast, fast, they plunge amid the flashing wave, 
And, panting, labour to the farthest shore. 
Repeated this, till deep the well-washed fleece 
Has drunk the flood, and from his lively haunt 
The trout is banished by the sordid stream; 
Heavy and dripping, to the breezy brow 
Slow move the harmless race ; where, as they spread 
Their swelling treasures to the sunny ray, 
Inly disturbed, and wondering what this wild 
Outrageous tumult means, their loud complaints 
The country fill ; and, tost from rock to rock, 
Incessant bleatings run around the hills. 
At last, of snowy white, the gathered flocks 
Are in the wattled pen innumerous pressed, 
Head above head : and, ranged in lusty rows, 
The shepherds -it, and whet the sounding shears." 

Then stormy Autumn comes with its "huddling" flocks, 
and 

" The sheep before the pinching heaven 
To sheltered dale and down are driven 
Where yet some faded herbage pines, 
And yet a watery sunbeam shines. 



The Poets Flocks. 243 

In weak despondency they eye 

The withered sward and wintry sky. 

The shepherd shifts his mantle's fold, 

And wraps him closer from the cold ; 

His dogs no merry circles wheel, 

But, shivering, follow at his heel ; 

A cowering glance they often cast, 

As deeper moans the gathering blast." — Scott. 

And so to Winter, with "the dun-discoloured flocks, untended 
spread, cropping the wholesome root" — or, as Graham e 
more prosaically puts it, "on the turnip-field, in portions 
due, staked off, the bleating flock their juicy meal, nibbling 
partake" — or it may be with the same poor woolly folk 
piteously neglected, like Milton's "hungry sheep that look up 
and are not fed, but, swollen with wind and the rank mist 
they draw, rot inwardly," or, as in Thomson — 

" The bleating kind 
Eye the bleak heavens, and next the glistening earth, 
With looks of dumb despair, then sad dispersed 
Dig for the withered herb, through heaps of snow." 

Fond as poets are of their sheep, they hardly justify their 
excessive affection for them by the character which they 
give the " woolly people." Their habit of following their 
leader, " whether led to the downs or from the wave-worn 
rock reluctant hurled" (Armstrong), brings down upon their 
heads frequent contempt. Slaves are as obedient "as 
sheep," and stupid men are "like sheep that follow." As 
flocks they are always "silly," "the tame, implicit team" 
(Armstrong), as individuals they are meekly feeble. Says 
Swift— 

" Therefore the sheep, those foolish cattle, 

Not fit for courage or for battle, 

And being tolerable meat, 

They're good for nothing but to cat." 

xious and sage, the sovereign of the flock," the 



244 The Poets' Beasts. 

ram, a the flocke's father," finds but scanty reference ; the 
truth being that this generous and bold-fronted beast mars 
the symmetry of the poetical sheep-idea. His independent 
bearing, his courage in misfortune, spoil the wooliy-s: 
gentle picture. In the olden verse the rams that " fight for 
the rule of the rich-fleeced flock," and "meet so fierce with 
horned fronts," receive a robust and becoming sympathy, 
which is in accordance with the splendid traditions of the 
bea^t — 

'• As when two rams, stir'd with ambitious pride, 
it for the rule of the rich-fleeced flocke, 
Their horned fronts so fierce on eiiher 
Doe meete, that, with the terror of the shocke 
Astonied, both stand sence'.esse as a blocke, 
Forgetfull of the hanging victory : 
So stood these twaine, unmoved as a rocke, 
Both staring fiercely, and holding idely 
The broken reliques of their former cruelty." 

The ewe, the " mumbling " ewe. has but little indivi- 
duality. They call her " Goody Sheep," and, in Mother 
Hubbard's delightful tale, the fox and wolf flout her when 
she comes to complain to the ape — then ruler of the four- 
footed — of the loss of her young. She is only the mother of 
the lamb. Eagles stooping from their watch-towers and 
" gathering large tribute from ever}- vale,*' — wolves rushing 
from the bushes upon the gamboling lambkins, — the butcher 
levying his toll upon the flock, all relegate her to obscui 
Take away her lamb and she vanishes into nonentity. G^ve 
her another, and she reappears. 

" She provident 
Her milky treasures or his life reserves. 
Butting intruders with a frown away. 
At length he finds her, and with bended knees 
Emblem of innocence and filial gTace 
His plenteous meal receives, and bleats no more." 

In Nature the mother and her young one are ever a delight- 



The Poets Flocks. 245 

ful and loveable sight ; and the charm is often beautifully 
translated into verse. Thus in Blomfield— 

" The teeming ewes, that still their burdens bear : 
Beneath whose sides to-morrow's dawn may see 
The milk-white strangers bow the trembling knee. 
And at their birth the pow'rful instinct's seen 
That fills with champions all the daisied green, 
For ewes that stood aloof with fearful eye, 
With stamping foot now men and dogs defy, 
And obstinately faithful to their young 
Guard their first steps to join the bleating throng." 

Hurdis has the following curious passage about the 
pastoral artifice of dressing up a lamb in the skin of another, 
and thus palming it off upon some bereaved mother— 

"Often let me mark 
The sullen ewe's authoritative stamp 
Where'er the sheep-dog passes. Let me smile 
At her deluded sense, what time her lamb 
By the bleak season slain, his wilted coat 
Yields to the flayer, and the ravished twin 
Of some fond mother, in the coarse disguise 
Appears loose-coated, and usurps the due. 
Dull fool, how ill perceives thy stupid eye 
The palpable imposture ! " 

The lamb, when not "prancing" and "gambolling," is 
"witless" and "unconscious." Above all, it is innocent. 
" Is not this a lamentable thing, that the skin of an innocent 
lamb should be made parchment? that parchment being 
scribbled o'er should undo a man ? " 

That the wolf should eat the lamb is therefore one of that 
beast's most infamous points. It is intolerable to the poets, 
and they are never weary of denouncing the base assassina- 
tion. They admit the provocation the lamb gives by losing 
itself, by bleating loudly, by opening doors which its mother 
had particularly cautioned it to keep shut ; but their indig- 
nation against the murderer is none the less unmeasured 



?4'3 

and persistent Their lambs are innocent and white and 

tie j so the wolves that eat them are atrocioi> 
and unspeakably swarthy and grim. But th 
only the survival of the world"s origin: 

Judged from any but a pc 
almost be accounted the happiest and most fortunate of 
animals. Death, after all. is the universal lot ; 
policeman calls with his summons upon each in turn. Not 
that sheep ever seem to contemplate any; er ahead 

than their own noses. :bled with visions 

of cold mutton — 

'• The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed to - 
Had he thy 

-d to the last he crops the flow'ry food 
licks the hand just raised I 

But, with the poets, their mildly-idiotic vacuity of face, I 

-.-less imitation of each other's actio:" - 
evasion of anything like vigorous independence for at: 
or self-defence, are interpreted into innocence, docility, and 

•cness. Their timidity is called _ Thus 

invested with many good qualities — those which - 

_;e the poetic fancy — we find them con,-: ^'Jng 

1 Whai an admirable nnjsanrs — 

The lamb rejoiceth in 
An d 

to his mothc 

From the flowe: i In a time 

Of which . run short pains 

■ warm hear:, and then, from whence 
He 1. falls 

dow; and his native - 
Where lie was a 

- 
And some: J . darkness . 

forehead on 



The Poets Flocks. 247 

as a virtuous people whose lives are sadly oppressed. Their 
perpetual nervousness, one of the most absurd phenomena 
of animal life, is excused on the ground that the events that 
cause the alarm are arbitrary and brutal. Some tyrant or 
another, a dog that barks, or man with a gun, rudely disturbs 
the happy calm of the gentle sheep. So all persecuted 
sects, communities, or persons are called " flocks " and 
"sheep," although, says Herbert, "to a short-shorn sheep 
God gives wind by measure." 

So it becomes the symbol of home-life, and its peace. 
In the pet-lamb, Burns' lamented "hoggie," this idea, as in 
Mary Howitt's very charming poem, reaches its extreme 
expression, but the flocks in general convey the same sig- 
nificance in a hundred different ways. Their mere presence 
suffices to tranquillise the scene, and, like some other sounds 
in Nature, their voices emphasise the rural silence. 

" For sheep-bells chiming from a wold, 
Or bleat of lamb within its fold, 
Or cooing of love-legends old 

To dove-wives makes not quiet less ; 
Ecstatic chirp of winged things, 
Or bubbling of the water spring, 
Are sounds that more than silence bring 

Itself and its delightsomeness." — Jean IngeUrw. 

Wordsworth hears, in the bleat of the lamb on the hill, " the 
plaintive spirit of the solitude." Thomson is very fond of 
"the bleating mountains," 1 the "distant bleatings of the 
hills," as an emblem of repose. The absence of sheep 
from the landscape (as in Grahame) reminds the wanderer 
in other lands of the happy tranquillity of "home." He 
longs, with Faber, to hear 

" The bleating tribes, 
The nomads of the moorland, which send down 
A plaintive greeting from the windy heights." 

1 So too we have with the herds " lowing vales." 



24S The Poets' Beasts. 

Thomson's shepherd therefore "dwells with Peace," and 
" the porch of his mossy cottage ; ' is in Wordsworth 
rendered more touchingly home-like by the corner-stones 
on either side being 

'• With dull red stains discoloured, and stuck o'er 
With tufts and hairs of wool, 

As if the sheep that fed upon the common, thiiher came 
Familiarly, and found a couching place 
Even at the threshold." 

It follows therefore that any accidental association of 
sheep with stirring scenes or sounds of the chase or battle 
— as lambs " in friskful glee " that sport round ' f the mossy 
mound, the rampart once of iron war " — should give the 
poets a point of strong contrast. So (in Pitt) " the bleating 
flocks that along the bastion pass, and from the awful ruins, 
crop the grass," illustrates the peaceful meeting of generals 
to sign a truce upon their recent battlefield. The utter- 
ness of change is shown in Byron by sheep feeding on the 
lost site of Ilion's outworks — " where I sought for Ilion's 
walls, the quiet sheep feeds, and the tortoise crawls," and 
so too in Leyden — 

" Green waves the harvest, and the peasant boy 
Stalls his rough herds, within the towers of Troy ; 
Prowls the sly fox, the jackal rears her brood, 
Where once the towers of mighty Iiion stood." 

Though thus idealised as a genus, the various species are 
all practically rendered. A poet's acquaintance with Nature 
is not, as a rule, so extensive that he can afford to waste a 
variety of sheep. The " small black-legged sheep " that, 
'•fleshless, lank, and lean," devour "the meagre herbage "' 
of the Cumbrian hills; the "goat-horned" animals "'of 
fleece hairy and coarse, of long and nimble shank," that 
"browse their thinly-scattered meal o'er the bleak wilds " of 
the Cambrian; the Cotswold, "hills of milder air, that 



The Poets Flocks. 249 

gently rise, o'er dewy dales, a fairer species boast, of shorter 
limb and frontlet more ornate, such the Silurian ; " the 
Southdown, " the larger sorts of head defenceless," " whose 
fleece is deep and clammy, close and plain ; " the other, 

" Whose tawny fleece in ringlets curls, 
With horns Ammonian circulating twice 
Around each open ear — like those fair scrolls 
That crrace the columns of th' Ionic dome," 

and many another, is specifically described, while the 
elaborate minuteness of Dyer's history of the Fleece, from 
the ingredients that compose the soil, that grows the grass, 
that feeds the sheep, that gives the wool, that makes dyers 
rich, and ought to make England mistress of the world, is 
probably too well known to need any detailed reference 
here to that amazing abuse of poetical instinct, and unique 
infelicity of choice of subject. But the "poem," for such 
Akenside declares it to be, contains some delightful refer- 
ences to foreign sheep and shepherds, which are worth a 
passing notice. Having put the Indus in Cashmere, he 
calls the goats of the country sheep, and then, rambling 
off across Cathay, refers enraptured to the shepherd by 
" China"s long canals," and so, coming round to the west, 
sees Mississippi " lengthen-on " her sheep-walks, and finally 
arrives in South America, where he speaks of the llama or 
the alpaca of Peru as 

" That sheep 
Of fertile Arica, like camels formed, 
Which bear huge burdens to the sea-beat shore 
And shine with fleeces soft as feathery down." 

But the whole poem is too pathetic in its vain struggle with 
the hopeless to be made fun of. There are lines and 
occasional passages of tolerable merit, but of the work, as a 
whole, Johnson's verdict on it will generally commend itself 
to the majority. 



The Poets Beasts. 

The value of our wool productions is, however, a fre- 

and though the old 

e unluxurious 

times of yore, when flocks and herds were no inglorious 

is usually spoken of as an 

important factor in individual, local, and national wealth. 

. fleecy produce of the Cotswold field 

I equal what Peruvian mountains yield." The beauty 

of the wool itself comes often also under admiration, its 

- and its - . iing indeed sometimes the 

poets' stock of simile and comparison. More than one 

far as to blame us for and to draw 

a moral of voluptuous -.herefrom. So Hammond, 

for instance — 

B charm of Nature lost 
I 

i rds : creatures of a 
" witless le simplicity. Thus Parnell's — 

" Gaping, teni e 

Or, again, in Spensei — 

e was, as meek might be, 
- e P> 

The flock 

Indeed, " the cheerful tendance of the flocks " would hardly 
seem, from the poets' description of those who tend them, 
to conduce to much dignity of thought or intellectual 
occupation. m grazing, as Crabbe says, " with 

what a pure and simple joy 

tep, 

. busy keep." 



The Pods Flocks. 251 

And when they meet they have but a slender stock of 
intelligence to exchange, as in Herrick — 

" But say, what news 
Stirs in our sheep-walk? 
None. Save that my ewes, 
Wethers, and lambs, and wanton kids are well, 
Smooth, fair, and fat." 

Yet Faber would seem to be envious of such company — 

" That in mute company with the creatures, 
And gazing in their patient features, 
I might receive seme sweet sense 
Of our original innocence." 

There are, however, two varieties of the shepherd. The 
first is the strictly poetical shepherd, " with his artless reed." 
This is Mallet's " rural king amid his subject flocks," who 
(Dyer) flutes to "charm his sheep" and (Otway) " pipeth to 
his feeding sheep." Jean Ingelow has, in " Gladys' Island," 

" A grassy down, 
Where sheep and lambs were feeding, with a boy 
To tend them. 'Twas the boy who wears that herb 
Called heartsease in his bosom, and he sang 
So sweetly to his flock, that she stole on 
Nearer to lUten." 

The other is the ordinary rustic, who lies about on the 
grass, and, when he is awake, gazes at his sheep and the 
landscape generally, and who has a dog to do all his work 
for him. A pleasing sub-variety, however, is " the blooming 
maid," who sometimes drives her flocks afield. Their 
queen is surely Lovelace's Chloris — that 

" Chloris, the gentlest shepherdess 
That ever lambs or lawns did bless." 

Country folk take omen and augury from so many beasts, 
birds, and plants, that it would be strange if sheep were 
exempt from prophetic functions, and not invested with 
prognostic powers. 



252 The Poets Beasts. 

" When Blouzelind expir'd, the wether's bell 
Before the drooping flock toll'd forth her knell, 
The solemn death-watch click'd the hour she dy'd, 
And shrilling crickets in the chimney cry'd. 
The boding raven on her cottage sate, 
And with hoar.-e croak warn'd us of her fate ; 
The lambkin, which her wonted tendance bred, 
Dropp'd on the plains that fatal instant dead. 
Swarm'd on a rotten stick the bees I spied, 
Which erst I saw when Goody Dobson died."— Gay. 

Certain noises are said to sicken the ewes ; shrew-mice in 
the grass, newts in the water, are supposed to " blast " them. 
The poets take due cognisance of these superstitions ; and 
the fauns and fairies who avert such disasters are becomingly 
admired. Of old-world fancies, Keats has beautifully pre- 
served the following — 

" And it had gloomy shades, sequestered deep, 
Where no man went ; and if from shepherd's keep 
A lamb strayed far adown those inmost glens, 
Never again saw he the happy pens 
Whither his brethren, bleating with content, 
Over the hills at every nightfall went. 
Among the shepherds 'twas believed ever, 
That not one fleecy lamb which thus did sever 
From the white flock, but passed unworried 
By any wolf, or pard with prying head, 
Until it came to some unfooted plains 
Where fed the herds of Pan : ay, great his gains 
Who thus one lamb did lose." 

This beautiful legend of Pan — " Hearkener to the loud- 
clapping shears " — and the fauns guarding the shepherd 
and his sheep — the cloud-flocks of the divinities — of 
Oceanus — the golden fleece of Colchos — 

" There was a shepe, as it was tolde, 
The whiche his flees bare all of golde, 
And so the goddess had it sette, 
That it ne mi^ht awaie be fette " (Gozuir — 



The Poets' Flocks. 253 

the strange shepherding of Orpheus, " when lambs would 
scorn their food to hear his lay, and savage beasts stand by 
as tame as they " (Cowley), and many another fancy of a 
pastoral antiquity, finds a place in our poets' verse ; while 
the similes, analogies, morals, and metaphors from the sheep 
of Scripture, the classics, or folk-lore individuality are innu- 
merable. The Lamb of the Messiah — 

'■ Tell me, was he a Shepherd or a Lamb? 
Shepherd and Lamb at once. He took each name. 
Since then our God a Shepherd's name doth we 
The name of lamb who will not wish to bear ? 
And who will not be shepherd, since God deigns 
To be a Lamb for suffering of sin's pains." — Cms 

Of Pentecost, of sacrifice, " the useful beast on Isaac's pile 
consumed" (Cowley), the flocks of David and of the shep- 
herds of Bethlehem, afford again and again an image or a 
thought — 

" A deceitful concubine, who shore me 
Like a tame wether, all my precious fleece," 

Una with her milk-white lamb, Joan of Arc with her crook, 
Don Quixote's army of Pentapolin. 

Being thus prepossessed in favour of sheep, it is almost 
a natural sequence that the poets should be prejudiced 
against the goat, which is the moral antithesis of their 
favourite animal. Allan Ramsay's fable admirably illustrates 
this difference of sentiment. A ram " of upright, hardy 
spirit, really a horned head of merit," who all summer and 
autumn through had led his family to abundant pastures, 
takes them, as winter comes on, ''to crop contented frozen 
fare, with honesty, on hills blown bare. - ' Then he meets 
a goat who by his rascally trespassing upon fields and 
gardens had earned the hatred of all his neighbours, and 
who, anxious if possible to secure a friend, offers to give 
the ram some of his coat, which is close and intact, while 



Poets' Beasts. 

ram's, being torn by brambles, leaves his body half 
naked to the biting mountain-wind. But the sturdy old 
refuses. 

bat I scorn 
To 1 E price 

in as I noo 
ao\ 

Boc : 

Frc . . make reci. 




X. 



THE BEARD-BLOWN GOAT:' 



Goats possess the great advantage over sheep of having 
beards. This should be especially in their favour with the 
poets, for the beard makes the animal romantic — it becomes, 
in Tennyson, the " beard-blown goat " — and gives it that air 
of the rude and shaggy which Dr. Syntax assures us is the 
soul and essence of the picturesque. 

Bearded is always a favourite epithet with the poets, when 
they wish to convey an idea of rugged strength or venerable 
wisdom. Thor, with all his presence, could hardly spare 
that red torrent from his chin ; Peru's dignity and strength 
lies in his thunder-black beard. Remember Schaibar. He 
was a dwarf, and a dreadful ogre at that. But he trailed 
thirty feet of beard. When the wind blew he looked forth 
as from a mist of flame. Regiments of guards fell flat 
before him as he walked. Kings upon their thrones 
shivered in their golden sandals at the sight of the much- 
bearded brother of the Peri Banou. How better describe 
the grim earl than to call him " Hakon Grizzle-beard ? " 
The portrait is authentic at once. From the beard we 
straightway deduce the complete man. Barbarossa stands 
out from the page forthwith. 

Conversely, disrespect attaches to the shabby beard ; as 
Don Quixote, admonishing Sancho on the manner of His 
life when he should come to be s;overnor of an island or an 



256 Beasts. 

earldom, says, "What thou art will be seen a bow-shot off 
. beard be not as it should t 

Tne anomalous beard makes the whole man eccentric, 
grotesque, and absurd. What reverence would attach to 
the appearance of the Nestors of the Moon-folk, whose 
beards, as we know, grew just above their knees ? or to 
those elders of the wise sea-folk with their faces smothered 
in gr js? 

Again, to be altogether beardless has passed into an 
expression of scornful contempt. It was David's hairless 
operated Goliath. It is true that some races 
affect to despise the beard — thus the Red Indians, who say 
that a European's face resembles a dog's with a squirrel in 
its mouth — but they are those who cannot grow a really 
handsome and venerable length of beard, and illustrate, 
therefore, very aptly the fable of the fox that had lost its 
tail. As a rule, all nations of antiquity prided them?-. 
on this adornment No oath carried with it the same dignity 
of earnestness as u by my beard " — even when a Welshman 
pronounced it with a " p ; " no affront such humiliation as 
that which was offered to the beard. The gods themselves 
pledged their honour "by their beards." The reddened 
beard of Ahenobarbus, black till then, was the great Twin 
Brethren's gage of victory. 

When men succumb to the vril-staff of women in the 

ce they are to become Ana and beardless. 

is prophesying thus to the Assyrians moved them 

to paint Apollo with a large, long beard beseeming an old 

ed person of a most sedate, staid, and grave demeanour : 

young and beardless as he was pourtrayed most usually 

among the Grecians." In fairy tales, again, what beard- 

_ dan, the have ! When they are 

blue or scarlet (as in the Red Shoe- or green, like 

those of the pine-forest Kobolds. they are a trifle whimsical, 
no doubt, but never ridiculous. 



The Beard- Blown Goat. 257 

Thus the goat starts, as it were, with a beard "to the 
good "— 

" Hung high in air the hoary goat reclined, 
His streaming beard the sport of every wind." 

What a delightful confusion of mental pictures the couplet 
innocently conjures up — Rogers' Swiss mountaineers — Keat's 
discrowned Titans — the Last Minstrel. Put any other word 
in the place of "goat" and see the effect. " Hung high in 
air the hoary god reclined," &c. Lo ! Saturn overlooking 
the conflict that shook the Elder Divinities out of the 
heavens. Try "prince" instead of "goat," and we have 
doomed Saul lying stretched upon the mountain side, his 
eyes, ominous of to-morrow's woe, scanning the hosts of 
Philistia as they darken the spurs of Gilboa. Change it 
for "chief," or "sage," or "bard," and the effect of the 
couplet remains the same. 

It is the beard that does it. Dignity is inseparable from 
it — when it is long enough to " stream," and the owner is 
in repose. " The old romantic goat, his white beard low- 
waving." Here Coleridge has the vignette complete. 

Not that the goat's beard, as such, is in itself a reverend 
symbol. On the contrary, if it is transplanted from the 
animal's chin to any other, it carries with it those scarcely- 
admirable significances which the folk-lore of all nations 
has attached to the he-goat. " Mad and careless, hot and 
vain," is the poets' summing-up of the male animal, and 
Spenser tells us how — 

" The "blossoms of lust to bud do begin, 
And spring forth rankly under his chin." 

Satyrs and all sorts of misbehaving persons, even Apollyon 
himself, cohircinate therein, and in the "Beasts' Confes- 
sion " of Swift we read how — 

" The goat advanced with decent pace, 
And first excused his youthful face ; 



2f S The Poets Baists. 

Forgiveness begged that he appeared 
i'Twas Nature's fault) without a beard. 

- true, he was not much inclined 
To fondne- 

For he had made a holy vow 
Of chastity, as monks do now. 7 ' 

Moreover, there is a popular superstition that no he-goat 
ever remains in sight for twenty-four consecutive hours. 
For just as ever)- Grimalkin has to be a cat for eight of her 
lives and a witch for one, so. the] hint, the goat has 

to go once a day to the Devil to have his beard combed. 

In the practical household the appendage had its use as 
a cider-strainer. Thus the Poet of the Apple advises — 

'• With timely care 
To shave the g _y beard, lest thou too late 

In vain should'st seek a strainer to dispart, 
The husky terrene dregs from purer m 

When the Bachelor disguises himself to deceive the Don, 
he ties on to his face a beard which the innkeeper's wife 
angrily despoils him of, it being her strainer. 

But the poets have very skilfully utilised both aspects. 
As the beard promiscuous or general it claims for the animal 
a uniform picturesqueness ; as the beard particular — caprine 
— it gives the poet an easy simile. 

Next to their beards, the sure-footedness of this daring 
mountaineer that — 

imbs," 

attracts poetical regard, and certainly not without cause. 
For the amazing confidence of this animal is certainly 
among the chief marvels of Nature. Caution in moving and 
deliberateness in setting down the foot on a new spot are 
characteristics of nearly all wild things, whether furred or 
feathered. Even cats look carefully before they leap. 
Birds flutter before settling on an untried perch. But goats 



TJie Beard-Bloiun Goat. 259 

appear to have no fear whatever, and never fail in their 
trust of themselves. They make no pauses between their 
bounds, but spring from point to point, from sliding shingle 
to hard rock, sharp peak to sloping boulder, without 
apparently the least calculation — and sometimes they break 
their legs. So the poets call them " the careless goats " — 
Spenser has them '• dancing on the craggy cliffs at will," and 
Montgomery speaks of them " vaulting through the air, as if 
a thought conveyed them to and fro." They delight to 
" hang " them upon " dizzy heights," or make them, as 
Wordsworth does, frolic " by the side of dashing waterfalls." 

" The vine-mantled brows 
The prudent goats unveil, regardless they 
Of hourly peril, tho' the rifted domes 
Tremble to ev'ry wind." 

There is, indeed, a fine independence of character about 
the goat which separates it by many parasangs from the 
sheep. The latter lives placidly by faith, and seems assured 
of redemption ; the former is possessed by the restless 
genius of unbelief. You cannot keep goats on the level 
road, even though you take the greatest possible pains to 
show them the farmyard and the fold at the end of it. 
They detest the commonplace. Rather than plod safely 
home by the regular way, they prefer to travel adventurously 
by paths of their own. By choice, they take the ups and 
downs of life ; and when they do not find them ready made 
for them, they make them for themselves. If there is a 
heap of stones by the roadside, they get up on to it — their 
spirits at once rise at finding themselves on an eminence : 
and till the herdsman comes up they snatch a precious half- 
minute in playing " Tom Tiddler's Ground." If there is a 
ditch it is just the same. As many goats as possible get down 
into it and pretend it was in their way. They get among 
the sheep, and deliberately disorder the woolly procession 



260 The Poets Beasts. 

They jump over the sheep's backs to show their indifference 
to orthodoxy. 

It is very seldom indeed, therefore, that the versatile, 
generous-minded goat is found in Nature mixed up with the 
dull but eminently respectable sheep. They are bored by 
them. When the herdsman calls his charges together, the 
sheep come along the valley in a compact body, taking the 
beaten track. But the goats drop in promiscuously, singly, 
or in twos or threes ; and most of them from above. 

" At feeding time the goats will be browsing in long lines 
on the mountain sides, while the sheep are grazing in the 
plain. At midday, when the flocks are gathered round the 
wells to await the rolling away of the stone that guards the 
water, the goats assemble on one side and the sheep on the 
other. And at night, when they are all gathered into one fold 
by one shepherd, they are still separated from each other." 

I confess this exclusiveness commends itself to me, and 
I cannot find it in me to reproach goats for avoiding the 
company of sheep. I can imagine no company less exhila- 
rating or improving. Sheep are very woolly. 

This independence of character is finely shown in the 
goat's demeanour. He bears himself in a stately way. 
Read Proverbs — 

"There be three things which go well, yea, four are 
comely in going. 

"A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth 
not away from any. 

"A greyhound; ati he-goat also; and a king, against 
whom there is no rising up." 

Indras, therefore, does not derogate from his dignity in 
assuming the form of the " warrior he-goat," nor Thor select 
unbecoming steeds for his thunder-car when he yokes the 
Butting Ones. 

Boldness is in the blood of it — an inheritance from its 
great-horned ancestry of the Asiatic ranges. These are the 



The Beard-Blown Goat. 261 

paseng and the ibex, among the bravest of animals and 
symbols of proud and fearless freedom. The markhor, too, 
is a grand type of the mountaineer, with its gravity of bear- 
ing, induced as it were by a life of constant peril, and an 
implacable courage. 

As distinct from sheep — the ordinary fleecy flocks of the 
dawn — goats are the shaggy clouds that hang on the hill- 
side, as in Phillips' lines — 

" On the cliffy height 
Of Penmenmaur and that cloud-piercing hill 
Plinlimmon, from afar the traveller views 
Astonished, how the goats their shrubby browse, 
Gnaw, pendent " — 

or are blown about the peaks, as in Montgomery — 

" Goats that swing 
Like spiders on the crags/' 

They are the darker nimbus clouds as contrasted with the 
lamb's- wool cirrus of meteorologists. A suspicion of the 
sinister lurks about them. They have latent potentialities 
for mischief. They huddle together at twilight in the 
wolfish gloaming, and threaten with their horns the monster 
of Night, whether wolf or witch, that fills the herdsman's 
hours of darkness with terror — substantial, four-footed terrors, 
some of them : superstitious, aerial, the others. They patrol 
the midnight sky lest the enemy with the myriad eyes, the 
sleepless one, should do them harm, ^"hen day breaks, 
and Aurora opens her folds to drive her charges afield, they 
separate each after its kind, just as in the pastoral land- 
scape — 

" Goats upon the frowning steep, 

Fearless with their kidlings browse, 
Here a flock of snowy sheep, 

There a herd of motley cows." 

For the cloud- myth, a fancy of primitive man, is altogether 



262 The P: 

pastoral ; and goats — more common than sheep in the 
countries where that myth originated — have always their 
appropriate prominence. 

Goatherds differ from shepherds only as their charges 
differ, being more picturesque and in a manner more 
on& They are described in prose, in Don Quixote 
and Gil Bias, for instance, as of a more active, aggressive, and 
enterprising kind than the Gentle Shepherd. Byron's little 
goatherd "in his white capote, leaning his boyish form 
along the rock," affords a pleasing vignette from the rocks, 
and many speak of him as delighting, like the guardian of 
the i'r.etr. :r. rv.us;:. 

" Meantime on earlier pipe a lowly lay, 
As my kids browse obscure in shades, I play." 

Following goats naturally called for a greater robustness 
of limb and character, and so, though we occasionally find 
in the poets an M Acantha roaming in thymy valleys, tending 
her milk-white goats and gathering honey," the goatherdess 
is a very rare phenomenon. It may be feminine enough 
to follow the " silly sheep " among their level pastures : but 
trying to keep order among goats, or clambering after them 
to lend assistance to adventurous kids in distress, is scarcely 
becoming to the sex. 

Of the antiquity of their domestication we have some 
evidence from the first sacrifice, from which we learn that 
they were kept in herds by the second generation of man- 
kind ; and we may, therefore, without any unreasonable 
license of assumption, suppose that the First Man, "the 
old gardener," was a goatherd also. By what devices our 
great Progenitor circumvented the original goat we are not 
told But they were not, probably, very different from 
those by which Robinson Crusoe caught his. For that 
Adam, cast upon the desert island of the earth outside of 
Paradise, had a dog for a companion, the traditions of 



The Beard-Blown Goat. 26 



j 



antiquity suffice to assure us, and, given a dog, even-thing 
becomes possible for man in the most natural way. More- 
over, Lilith, who is called the first wife of Adam, came, it is 
said, from a pastoral folk ; and it may be that she brought 
with her into the solitary wigwam that stood among the 
thistles hard by the gates of Eden, the secret of weaving 
the primitive pushm. 

" Wiih glossy hair of shaggy goat, 

Are light tiaras woven that wreath the head, 
And airy float behind." 

There, too, was first made goats'-milk cheese, the original 
Gruyere, such as the son of Jesse carried down to the camp 
in the valley of Elah, for a present to the captain of the 
thousand in which his brothers served. There, too, the 
wandering jackal first sniffed the odour of the Kibab, the 
roasted kid-flesh, such as Rebecca made haste to get ready 
for old Isaac's deceiving, preparing it like Esau's venison, 
" the savoury meat which his father loved." 

How is it, by the way, that this excellent meat is not 
more common in England ? The empty hills of Wales 
would surely support innumerable herds of goats, and the 
flesh of the kid is infinitely better eating, both in flavour 
and texture, than half the " lamb " which is sold in butchers' 
shops. 

That this animal was selected to bear away upon its head 
the sins of the people, has somehow brought it obliquely 
into disrepute, and the " scape-goat " has become a symbol 
of reproach. Yet it should not be forgotten that when the 
lots were cast, there were only two chances, and that the 
goat which was not Azazel, " the departing one," was drawn 
"for Jehovah." So that it rested only on the hazard of the 
Levite's choice which of the two remained in the Hebrew 
camp, consecrated for sacrifice to the Lord, and which was 
sent forth. 



264 The Pods' Beasts. 

" The scape-goat on his head 
I eopie's trespass bore, 
And to the desert led, 

Was to be seen no more : 
In him our Surety seemed to say, 
1 Behold, I bear your sins away.'" 

Nor also should it be overlooked that the goat which 
was drawn " for Jehovah " was at once led to the altar and 
slain for the " Great Atonement 1 ' So that the one which 
was set at liberty was not less honourable than the other 
which was dedicated to death. Nor can it be said to have 
been less fortunate. 

The legend of the scape-goat is a very widespread one, 
and belongs indeed to those " primitive fancies " with 
which each nation seems to have started as a stock in 
common. In sacrifice, also, it has always been conspicuous. 
But this is a melancholy distinction which in one way or 
another has befallen every animal man could manage to 
catch for the purpose, but which should never be supposed 
to derogate from the victim's respectability, or else humanity 
itself becomes contemptible on the altar, and the life of 
man be held a worthless offering. 

Ir. .arts of Egypt the he-goat was sacrificed; in others 
it was worshipped. Thus, the Memphians held public 
mourning, whenever one of the "horn-lifting" animals went 
over to the major: 

As the wet-nurse of the King of Olympus — 

" Above the rest in grace Adraste stood, 
Who rocked the golden cradle of the God, 
On his ambrosial lips the goat distilled 
Her milky store, and fed ih' immortal child " — 

the she-goat arrives at considerable consequence, and its 
horns, presented by grateful Jove to Amalthea, the sister 
of the honey-nymph, flourishes immortal as the cornucopia, 
the horn of plenty, and glitters among the stars. Indeed, 



The Beard-Blown Goat. 265 

the astral honours of the goat are rather exceptional. The 
Milky Way, "the bridge of souls," is the she-goat — the 
same whose milk " nurse Amalthea skimmed for the boy 
Jupiter," and when called "St. James' Way," is still of 
caprine significance, though perhaps of a kind somewhat 
deplorable for the animal concerned, inasmuch as on that 
Saint's day it was the custom in Germany to throw a goat 
out of the window. The Pleiades, again, are called in many 
parts of Europe the Seven She-goats, and no one who has 
read of the notable ride of Don Quixote and his Squire on 
the wooden horse Clavileno, can forget how Sancho — wish- 
ing to have something to say as to what he saw when blind- 
folded — declares to the Duchess that he found himself at 
one point of the journey so near the sky that it was not a 
span above him. 

" And it so fell out that we passed close by the place 
where the seven she-goats are kept ; and, truly, having been 
a goatherd in my youth, I no sooner saw them but I longed 
to play with them awhile ; and had I not done so, I verily 
think I should have died \ so what does I but, without 
saying a word, softly slide down from Clavileno, and play 
with the sweet little creatures, which are like so many 
violets, for almost three-quarters of an hour." 

On being further questioned, he goes on to say that two 
of them were green, two carnation, two blue, and one 
motley-coloured. The Duke protests that he had never him- 
self seen such goats. "No," replies Sancho; "but your 
highness will allow that there must be some difference 
between celestial goats and those of the lower world." 

The she-goat in Aquarius has two kids, and Hindoo 
astrology knows them as the Rain-bringers. In this aspect 
they descended to the Romans, and Ovid, Horace, and 
Virgil have each of them due reference to the " signum 
pluviale capellse." Her character is always beneficent and 
motherly, whether we find her in classical fancy as Galathea, 



266 The Poets Beasts. 

"the milky one," or in contemporary folk-lore as the self- 
sacrificing she-goat that gives up her life for her less in- 
telligent companions. "Billy" maybe overbearing, hot- 
tempered, and unprincipled; but "Nanny "is meek and mild 
and benign. Though " the goat of El-Akhfash " has passed 
into Arab proverb as a fool, the adult animal in fable is in- 
variably discreet. The " wanton kiciling " is a trifle imbecile. 
Wolves and other villainous personages are the cause of 
" kiddie's " succumbing to the most obvious frauds, as in 
the Shepherd's Calendar — and thereafter punctually in ail 
poets. 

" All save a bell, which he left behinde 
In the basket for the kidde to finde ; 
Which, when the kidde stouped downe to catch, 
He popt him in, and his basket did latch ; 
Ne stayed he once the dore to make fast, 
But ranne away with him in all hast." 

That goats carry with them an ungracious aroma — are, 
in fact, the Bassas of the flock — is a circumstance most 
reproachfully urged against them ; yet, though, as Sir 
Thomas Browne would say, " I concede many questionable 
points, and dispute not the verity of sundry opinions which 
are of affinity thereto," I know not how to admit that their 
odour is a diabolical one. For Chaucer is not the only 
poet who thus unsavourily associates goats and devils — 

" And evermore wherever that they gon, 
Men may hem kennen by smell of brimston, 
For all the world they stinken as a gote." 

Now, Sancho Panza, who, having been a goatherd in his 
youth, was an authority on the subject, speaks endearingly 
(as we have seen) of certain goats as "little violets," while 
in another place he refers specifically to the demoniacal 
odour as something very different. "Truly, sir," quoth 
Sancho, " I have already touched them, and this same 



The Beard-Blown Goat. 267 

devil, who is so very busy about us, is as plump as a 
partridge, and has another property very different from 
what your devils are wont to have, who all smell of brim- 
stone." 

It is a curious point, too, that in England, as well as in 
other countries, the goat is considered a healthy animal, and 
its fragrance especially is supposed to be beneficial to cattle, 
horses, and sheep. For this obsolete reason a single goat 
is still often kept in our farmyards. 

This may have arisen out of the world-wide superstition, 
that these creatures are wise in simples and the medicine of 
the fields. Indeed, it is said that man got his first ideas of 
vegetable efficacies from the leechcraft of this animal and 
its knowledge of the uses of wild balsam. 

" Fresh dittany beloved of goats " is a poet's allusion to 
the wondrous ^virtues of the herb which the deer also are 
said to have recourse to when wounded. 

It had other drugs, too, "for its secure." Thus — 

" Here grows melampode everywhere, 

And terebinth good for goats, 

The one my madding kids to smear, 

The next to heal their throats." 

Mrs. Bury Palliser, in her delightful work, tells us 
how the Count of Soriano, who fell by the hand of 
Francis I. at Pavia, bore the device of the wild 
goat, " which when pierced by the arrow-shaped leaves of 
the palm-tree, seeks, to heal its wounds, for the herb 
dittany, which grows under the shade of the same tree," 
with the motto " Hinc vulnus, salus et umbra." Of the 
herb dittany Pliny says, "The goats first showed us the 
virtue of the herb dictamnus or dittany, to draw out arrows 
forth of their bodies. Perceiving themselves shot with a 
shaft, they have recourse presently to that herb, and with 
eating thereof it is driven out again." So in Virgil we find 



2 6S The Poets Beasts. 

Venus, in order to cure her son, speeding to Crete to fetch 
the plant 

" Well known to wounded goats, a sure relief 
To draw the pointed steel, and ease the grief." 

It is true that "the goddess-mother brews the extracted 
liquor with ambrosial dews, and odorous panacea," but the 
healing of /Eneas' hurt is none the less due to the herb. 

In Folkard's "Plant-lore" 1 I find many items about the 
weed. Thus, that Plutarch says that the women of Crete, 
seeing how the goats, by eating dittany, cause the arrows to 
fall from their wounds, learnt to make use of the plant to 
aid them in childbirth. Gerard recounts that the piant is 
most useful in drawing forth splinters of wood, bones, &c, 
and in the healing of wounds, "especially those made with 
invenomed weapons, arrowes shot out of guns, and such 
like." The juice, he says, is so powerful, that by its mere 
smell it li drives away venomous beasts, and doth astonish 
them." When mixed with wine, the juice was also con- 
sidered a remedy for the bites of serpents. According to 
Apuleius, however, the plant possessed the property of 
killing serpents. The dittany of Crete, it should be noted, 
is not to be confounded with the dittany, dittander, or 
pepper-wort of the English herbals. This plant, the 
lepidium latifolium, from its being used by thrifty house- 
wives to season dishes with, obtained the name of poor 
man's pepper. 

From this knowledge of natural medicines, the goat then 
became itself medicinal. Its blood had singular potencies. 
False emeralds shivered to pieces under a drop of it. 
Smear the palms of a sleeping man with it, and he will tell 
you all his secrets. 

"To artists who wish to engrave glass handsomely, now 
will I 'disclose to you a method exactly as I myself have 

1 "Plant-lore Legends and Lyric;." Sampson Low & Co. 



The Bcard-Bloivn Goat. 



269 



proved it. I collected fat earthworms turned up by the 
plough : and at the same time took vinegar and the hot 
blood out of a big he-goat, which I had skilfully fed upon 
strengthening herbs for a short time, when kept tied up in- 
doors. With the hot blood I then rinsed the worms, and 
the vinegar, and so anointed the whole of the bright glass 
bowl j which being done I essayed to engrave upon the glass 
with the hard stone known by the name of pyrites." Those 
who "desire to attack with the steel the noble gems which 
the princes of Rome loved far above gold," had also to use 
goats' blood, and so, too, had those who wished to engrave 
on crystals. But whether Heraclius meant what he said, 
or whether he was only " showing the way the trick was 
done," after the manner of Maskelyne and Cook — whose 
delightful explanations of their mysteries only serve to make 
them more mysterious than before — nobody will ever know. 
But as far as the professors of the glyptic art have gone yet, 
the blood of goats appears to be about as inefficient for 
softening gems as it is for calling up witches. For this also 
was one of its deplorable potencies. 

But the witches had their revenge upon the animal that 
could thus disturb their rest For on their " Sabbaths " 
they murdered goats, black ones — and ate them, raw. 




XI. 



THE POETS' HERDS. 



In the earliest poetry of the world, the prose myth, the 
" epic exploit " of cattle is so conspicuous a theme that, if 
I might take poetical license, I should speak of " horned 
legend " and of " lowing verse." 

That amazing puzzle, " the Solar myth," is largely bovine, 
and the primitive mythology being naturally zoological, found 
its constant illustration and most frequent subject in the bulls, 
cows, and calves without which man, in the first days of uni- 
versal discomfort, would have been himself little, better than 
a beast of the field. The phenomena of Nature represented 
to the bucolic generation a herd of cattle, and nothing more. 
Everything suggested itself to them as a mode of beef. 

Men started with a cow as the original datum of con- 
sciousness, and round it, as the one and only positive fact 
they possessed, their lives and thoughts were grouped. Let 
their imagination wander as far as it might, it never got 
outside the cattle-run, and fancy could not stray beyond 
ear-shot of the lowing kine. As they fed their bodies upon 
the produce of their herds, so they pastured their minds 
upon beef and milk. The skies became meadows, and the 
firmament a cattle-yard. Thunder lowed, and the hurricane 
bellowed.- The lightning was horned, and the storm, rat- 
tling overhead, went on hoofs. Black and white, red, dun, 
and dappled, the clouds went grazing or ramping across the 



The Poets Herds. 



271 



fields of heaven. The lowering, gloomy rain-nimbus tossed 
its head and pawed the air ; in the lighter drift they saw 
the sporting calves. The end of the world was a slaughter- 
yard, and Nature closed the volume in a catastrophic 
Smithfield. 

This is no exaggeration of the prominence of the cattle 
in myth. The bull and the cow represent in turn nearly 
everything that man then distinguished in the elements of 
the earth or their functions, everything that he saw in the 
skies above the earth, and everything that he guessed at in 
the depths below it. Never were there such kine before. 

They wandered about in such a maze of avatars that it 
seemed impossible they could ever turn up as mere cows 
again, and no Protean divinity — whether in classical myth 
or modern fairy tale — had such a phantasmagoric repertory. 
They impersonated everything, and everything at once. 
The cow was a cloud in the sky, which was itself a cow. 
The king in his fortress was a cow, and the forest about 
the fortress was a cow, and so was the cave within the 
forest about the fortress, and so was the giant inside the 
cave within the forest about the fortress in which the cow- 
king lived. Cow was stuffed within cow, like the bird within 
bird which we find in the Yorkshire pie ; and every incident 
of Nature — human, zoological, or elementary — -revolved 
round the bovine idea just as things do round the malt 
" that lay in the house that Jack built." The cow, again, 
is the thunder and the lightning too, both rain and sunshine, 
sun, moon, and stars. Then it gets mixed up with auroras 
and twilights, till, in the confusion of metamorphoses, we 
find the cow-morning pursuing the cow-night — each being 
attended by its appropriate twilight calf — and we find them 
also running away from each other by the light of the cow- 
stars that are shining out of the cow-sky. 

And the bull is alongside all the time, and every now 
and then there is a calf to complicate the situation. It 



272 



The Pods Beasts. 



is a dreadful myth altogether, ranging from language to 
language with exasperating indifference, and from people 
to people as if there were no fences in the ethnical and 
religious pastures in which it roves. It drags in, too, by 
countless arms, like some octopus of theory, every symbol 
of the folk-tale and fairy lore. 

Cinderella's slipper is proved to be a bull's tail. The 
bean-stalk which Jack climbs is a cow's tail. The won- 
derful lamp and the persecuted maiden, the girl that was 
seven years old whom the thunder carried off, the three 
dwarf brothers, and the magic flute, — are all of them modi- 
fications, we are told, of the bovine idea, and the cock 
comes in, and the hare and the crow, and the grateful 
pike, and the quail and the fox, and the red apples, and 
the kidney bean, and grief that inspires song, and the 
shrimps that saved the fairy. 

Who, too. cannot at once see the connection between the 
saviour bull and Turn-little-Pea, and Ivan who went out on 
his crook-backed horse to look for the casket under the oak 
at the bottom of the sea? and the witch that was burned in 
the form of a cat, and the cock that came out of the moun- 
tain, the Bird of Light that performed such wonders against 
the serpent and tortoise, and Medea and Orpheus, and the 
Strong Bear of the Finns ? Was not the bull sold to a tree, 
and did not the tree burst and out of it come gold which 
turned into bees? And does not all this make it as clear 
as cow-daylight that stock-raising was the only religion of 
the earth once upon a time, and justify a firmament filled 
with stars of beef that illuminate the Milky Way? 

Wander as you will in these antique myths, and Nature 
all round and above you, sunlit or moonlit or eclipsed, 
is still all cattle. Go where you choose, they still bellow 
and low, and paw and toss their heads, the luminous calf 
and the azure cow, the black bull with the golden horns, 
demoniacal cattle and celestial, malignant and benign. 



The rocts Herds. 273 

Time passed, and then came the days of sacrificial honour 
and of temple worship. 

" The pontiff knife 
Gleams in the sun, the milk-white heifer lows, 
The pipes go shrilly, the libation flows." 

In the melancholy honour of the sacrifice cattle have 
been always conspicuous, and in nearly all countries. 
Among the Hebrews they were selected for the purposes 
of the altar "without blemish," and were conscientiously 
consumed to ashes. Among the Spartans the leanest 
specimens were specially chosen, and the gods put off with 
only the entrails, the attendants of the shrine eating the 
meat. Even the Athenians made believe that the deities 
preferred the smoke of the sacrifice to the flesh. It was a 
convenient credulity, for while Olympus sniffed, the popu- 
lace feasted. Hecatombs were therefore vastly popular in 
Greece. The pagans of Africa at the present day piously 
economise in their burnt-offerings much in the same way, 
for though they sacrifice a beast in honour of Aunt Sally — 
as one feels irreverently inclined to call their idols — they 
eat it themselves. But they are very careful to give the 
medicine-man some of the teeth, to put inside his rattle. 
None the less, consecration was an honour, and the horned 
folk have in their day suffered from a surfeit of it. The poets 
prefer to see the heifer at the altar — 

'• Who are these coming to the sacrifice ? 
To what green altar, O mysterious priest, 
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies, 
And all her silken flanks with garlands dies! 

Yet as a rule it was a bull or bullock — in Egypt alwaj s. 
Yet Cowley has — 

" With less complaint the Zoan temples sound, 
When the adored heifer's drowned, 
And no true marked successor to be found." 

S 



274 lh e -P^ts Beasts. 

The allusion is of course to the Egyptian practice of leading 
out the sacred bull at a stated period and drowning it, the 
people going into mourning until a successor with the 
proper marks upon it was found by the priests. It was 
essential that the animal should be black, with a white spot 
on the forehead, and a white crescent on the right flank ; 
the image of an eagle on the spine, a knot under the tongue 
that resembled the scarabaeus beetle, and the hairs of 
the tail double. In Roman sacrifice the white oxen of 
Umbria that pastured by the Clitumnus were for their size 
and beauty specially preferred ; otherwise the poets' prefer- 
ence for this colour has no countenance from the past. The 
fact of the devoted animals being gaily garlanded and orna- 
mented, and their consequent appearance of a superior 
stateliness as they approached the place of doom, has given 
the poets many occasions for apt simile. 

" Like as the sacred oxe that carelesse stands 
With gilden homes and flow'ry girlonds crownVi, 
Proud of his dying honor and deare bandes, 
Whiles th' altars fume with frankincense around, 
All suddeinly with mortall stroke astound, 
Doth groveling fall, and with his streaming gore 
Distaines the pillours and the holy ground, 
And the faire flowres that decked him afore." 

Those honours, such as they were, of gilded horns and 
rose-wreathed neck, of fillet and votive garland, are things 
of the past — 

" Nor is Osiris seen 
In Memphian grove or green, 
Trampling the unshowered grass with lowings loud." 

At any rate, they only survive in the form of Christmas beef. 
We no longer strew the victim's head with roas'ted barley 
and salt; we pin a blue rosette on instead. When the 



The Poets Herds. 275 

Smithfield butcher draws the head upwards, 1 it might be 
whimsically inferred that we still sacrifice to the Olympic 
deities. In the scrutiny of the sanitary inspector we may 
recall the careful divination by entrails of the old haruspex, 
while the poets' descriptions of the ancient holocaust apply 
to our own Yule-tide immolations. 

Indeed, who can say, visiting any great Cattle-show, that 
the old worship of the horned things is extinct ? If the cult 
is dead, what means this thronging of people to see these fat 
cattle? Pilgrims come from every part of the kingdom, 
and among those who officiate in the rites are the highest 
in the land. 

' ' The sacred herd march proud and softly by, 
Too fat and gay to think their deaths so nigh. 
Hard fate of beasts, more innocent than we, 
Prey to our luxury and our piety ! " 

Suppose a Herodotus on his travels had chanced to pass 
through London and seen the Show, and inquired of the 
intelligent native what it meant, would he not have put 
it down in his note-book that we had a great saint named 
Christmas, who was commonly, depicted as an aged man 
of jolly ' countenance, and crowned with evergreens and 
berries ; that the priests of the temples, of which the chief is 
called Smithfield, annually sacrificed large numbers of fatted 
kine or sheep and pigs in his honour, and that the people 
exhibited the utmost reverence for this festival, never failing, 
even to the poorest, to do their best to celebrate it with 
merrymaking? This festival, he might have added, "comes 
but once a year,'" and it is commonly alleged by those who 
sing at night for alms in the streets, and have often to wait 
a long time before they get them, that this is the reason 
why they are so punctual in their observance of it. 

1 If downwards the Greeks meant that the sacrifice was to heioes 
or the gods of the lower world j if upwards, to Olympus. 



276 The Pods' Beasts. 

Nor would any one be surprised at such a conjecture, for 
whether we look at the solemn crowds that gravely survey 
the devoted animals and then go away complacent as if a 
religious duty had been paid, or watch the experts reve- 
rently punching a bullock's ribs or handling a fat sheep, it is 
very difficult not to imagine that one is assisting at a pious 
rite. Gazing at these prodigies of beef and mutton, women 
are serious and men stern. There is less cheerfulness than, 
for instance, at any Oriental shrine, where pilgrims from 
the country meet to offer their dues and chatter, and there is 
all the difference between the crowd inside and outside, as if 
the Agricultural Hall were some kind of sacred edifice. As 
a matter of fact, indeed, there is something solemn about 
the uniform nobility of size, something that represses mirth 
in the monotonous flatness of these prize animals' backs. 
You could lay out tea upon the back of that Hereford 
there, or play a game of cards upon that Southdown. It 
looks as if a roller had been passed over them all. On the 
other hand, there is a tendency to lofty exultation, chastened 
yet inspiriting, in the contemplation of all this meat to so 
little bone. It mollifies the spectator ; when he thinks of 
so much tenderness he melts unconsciously himself. He 
would not, if he could help it, harm even the most trifling 
butcher. But it does not conduce to much hilarity. A 
baron of prize beef is not a thing to jest about. So the 
visitors are mostly of a solemn kind. 

If the oxen that once, in pre-historic times, wandered about 
the Thames valley where Islington now stands, could return 
to the scenes of their lives, and see the Agricultural Hall, 
with its contents, they would probably be astonished It 
is permissible, at least, to suppose they would be. 

For, though the Pleistocene cattle may naturally have 
been of a kind that required much astonishing, seeing that 
they were fami'.iar with the mammoth and the woolly 
rhinoceros and other marvels of Nature, it is still within the 



The Poets Herds. 277 

possibilities that the alterations which have taken place 
since their day in Islington and the neighbourhood would 
be calculated to surprise. When they were in the flesh the 
site of London was an agreeable forest, interspersed with 
patches of marsh-land, affording the finest of grazing for 
everybody. Occasionally, perhaps, a man painted blue 
would come creeping along and whiz a pebble at them out 
of a sling, and then scramble up the nearest tree as fast 
as he could, or a carnivorous beast — lion, bear, or wolf, — 
would come up from the jungles about King's Cross, and 
make a meal off one of them. 

But if they came back now they would find but poor 
pasturage in Islington. There is no great luxuriance of 
meadow-grass in Pentonville, nor would oxen find much of 
the old bush herbage left in St. John Street Road. On the 
other hand, there would be no chance of azure aborigines 
coming up from the Smithfield marshes to annoy them with 
pebbles out of slings, or of lions and bears lying in wait to 
eat them as they passed along to the Agricultural Hall. So 
that, "taking one thing with another,"' it is not easy to say 
whether the antiquated old cattle whom we find in the 
Essex fossil-beds would prefer the present state of things or 
the old. 

Imagine, for instance, an ancient auroch, accustomed all 
his life to fight for everything he wanted, seeing the modern 
shorthorn in its stall. In his day, he would say, cattle were 
cattle. They had horns with which they could drill a hole 
through a rhinoceros; long and sinewy legs that carried them 
nimbly up the hills when tigers ran after them ; tough and 
shaggy hides, loose-fitting, that stood them in good stead in 
many a tussle for the lordship of the herd or the possession 
of a juicy pasture. In his day it was the hardest head and 
the stoutest heart that gained for their possessors all the 
luxuries of life ; dexterity in defence and ferocity in attack 
that won for them the reward of unmolested enjoyments ; 



2/8 The Poets Beasts. 

and when they were too old to live they died. He only 
knew of one kind of food, and that was grass ; and as far 
as he could remember, never saw but one human being in 
all his life, and if that one had not been so remarkably 
agile in getting up a tree that happened to be near, he 
would have tossed him on his horns sky high. 

With the animals of to-day it is vastly different. They 
are perpetually being fed upon new kinds of food, none of 
which bear the slightest resemblance to grass, and instead 
of having to go out and look for it for themselves — and 
fight for it, probably, before they could eat it — they find 
their meals being constantly replenished and put under 
their very noses. The result is that the hide grows fine, 
the bones become small, and the fattening beasts get bulkier 
every day, and shorter-winded. A pretty figure the prize 
beef would look trying to run up Box Hill, with a pack of 
wolves after it ! 

Yet the comfort of such arrangements — a thickly-littered 
stall and a pail of appetising "patent food " always at hand, 
and nothing to worry him — would certainly suggest itself to 
the old-world visitor. For, after all, this was the utmost 
ambition of his own life in the Pleistocene days — plenty of 
food, comfortable quarters, and absence of enemies. For 
a moment, perhaps, he would regret that he had been born 
in such early times ; but on a sudden, probably, he would 
remember that, though the lives of these stalled cattle were 
made very pleasant for them, they did not last long, and so 
in the end he would come to the conclusion that liberty, 
with length of years, was better than domestication and 
sudden death. 

Yet a very little further on he will find some of his 
posterity that have the true old feral ring about them, and 
all the shaggy romance of mountain and forest, as fleet and 
fierce as any primeval beast that had to fight with lions or 
escape from them. 



The Poets Herds. 279 

They are the Highland cattle, with their long-haired 
ruddy coats, their bison heads, bold wild eyes peering out 
through the overhanging locks, and horns with a menacing 
up-lift and terribly keen at the points. 

" Mightiest of all beasts of chase 
That roam in woody Caledon, 
Crashing the forest in his race 
The mountain bull comes thundering on. 

Fierce, on the hunter's quivered hand 

lie rolls his eyes of swarthy glow, 
Spurn?, with black hoof and horn, the sand, 

And tosses high his mane of snow." 

Some are coal-black, the veritable beasts of Ossian, and at 
once suggestive of those old myths in which they figure as 
storm clouds and malignant agencies. 

Nor are the Welsh cattle on the other side of the Hall 
much behind them in wild picturesqueness, while that fine 
black fellow, for ever restlessly tramping and turning his 
horns this way and that in the vain hope of finding some- 
thing near enough to prod, is a beast that the gladiators 
must have found some trouble with when the Romans 
imported British bulls for the spectacles of the amphitheatre. 
It looks as if it could go up hill as fast as down, and is fierce 
enough to perplex even a Texan cow-boy. But the breeder, 
when he selects his stock, thinks of Smithfield and not of 
the prairies, and lays his plans for the approval of the 
Christmas judges and not of wild herds of bison. 

Yet the spectacle of a prize bullock set down in the 
middle of a prairie, and submitted to the criticism of a herd 
of American bison, or taken down to the source of the 
Congo and left alone with some old buffaloes, would be a 
very interesting one. What a puzzle such a phenomenon 
of beef would be to them. How they would walk round it, 
and snort and wonder. 



2 So The Poets Beasts. 

" Stood all astound, like a sort of steeres, 
'Mongst whom some beast of strange and forraine race 
Unwares is chaunc't, far straying from his peers." 

Then familiarity with the object would probably lead to 
personalities, and when it came to fighting the prize-winner 
of Smithfield would have but a hard time of it. So it is 
better that he should remain where he is appreciated, and 
where his points are understood. 

The beef again, when sporting in the meadow, is not the 
master of its own fate. 

" The pampered wanton steer of the sharp axe, 
Regardless that o'er his devoted head 
Hangs menacing, crops his delicious bane, 
Nor knows the juice is life." 

It may think it is, and behave as if it thought so. But 
other hands shape its destiny, rough-hew it as it may, and 
the widely divergent results are such as to justify any con- 
scientious person in hesitation before he decides to com- 
mit the heedless bullock to the unhonoured publicity of 
the suburban meat-stall, or to reserve it for the blue-riband 
dignities of Smithfield in December. What does the 
horned yearling know of Christmas or its possibilities of 
obsequious sacrifice? It is of Christmas but not in it. 
Pantomimes do not compete for its patronage ; the shops 
expect no purchases of him. In all the acres of fir forest 
robbed for Christmas trees not one is lit up for his amuse- 
ment. No one sends him hampers of game or barrels of 
oysters. He knows nothing of plum-puddings, snapdragon, 
or crackers. How is he to do so? Is he not himself 
part of the festivity, a passive actor in the bright scenes of 
social enjoyment? Who can have time to think of the 
animal that gives us the beef we eat, even though his life 
was given with it ? Yet if we do think of him why not 
remember that he has had a life of jollity himself in order 



The Poets Herds. 281 

that he might add to the pleasures of the season ; that but 
for our great annual holiday he would have died long ago, 
unwept, unhonoured, and unsung ? If it had not been for 
the Christian institution of the 25th he would have been a 
common bullock. As it is, he has had a twelvemonth's 
grace of life, and luxurious life too. Fed upon the best of 
everything, and tended as if he were an emperor's favourite, 
he has dreamed away his days in obese contentment, and 
now that the end has overtaken him he goes to his fate 
surrounded with every accessory of importance. 

The influence, therefore, of human society upon the 
bullock is all for its advantage. If it had not been for 
Christmas he would have been common beef long ago. 
But as it is he is prize beef, and those who bred him, sold 
him, and ate him, are all the better for the time and money 
spent upon his education. 

In Greece and Rome it was a matter of popular belief 
that animals devoted to sacrifice walked to the altar with 
something of a nobler gait than when at liberty in the grass. 
They were conscious of an exceptional dignity in the occa- 
sion, and paced to death with a becoming stateliness. 

"The fatter the ox," says the Pilgrim, "the more game- 
somely he goes to the slaughter." The significance of the 
fancy is of course obvious. The ancients wished to think 
that the animal world was in alliance with them in the 
honours that were conferred upon their divinities, and in 
harmony with themselves. The thought of unwilling death 
jars upon the dignified composure of the sacrificial rite. 

Whether or not bullocks look upon Yule-tide as an occa- 
sion for high spirits, is of course a point involved in some 
doubt. But I do not think we need feel any hesitation in 
congratulating ourselves upon having given these amiable 
animals the opportunity of doing so if they liked. We 
bring a great moral purpose into their lives and add a 
dignity to decease. If they do their duty in death, they 



2$ 2 The Pods' Beasts. 

live in ease and peace. Fate spins them a more generous 
length of days, and when the fatal day comes it is really an 
altar that awaits them. 

For what is Christmas in its festal aspect but a feast in 
honour of the genius of good living, and what are the store 
of choice viands that we prepare for it but sacrifices ? So 
the pig, the bullock, and the sheep find, just as in the old 
pagan days, the fillets of sacrificial flowers, the garlands, 
and the ornaments ready. There is ceremony over the act 
of offering, and reverent appreciation of the remains. 

The Pontifex Maximus of the market himself prepares 
the prize beef, and the ordinary ministers of the place 
attend the rite in deferential attention. With what scientific 
nicety the joints are got ready ; with what conciseness of 
skill and brave affectations of gesture the operator does his 
work. He might be a surgeon with an emperor for his 
subject. And then with what parade of circumspection 
each portion is removed, with what fine quibblings as to 
trifles of position each is placed aside. Dexterous hands 
have already carved the lucid turnip and the glowing carrot 
into floral effigies, and the blue satin bows have fringes of 
silver tinsel, and the skewer is gilt. Under the master's 
own eye the decorations are affixed. In private there are 
many rehearsals, till at length taste is satisfied, and then 
the lordly fragments are brought out for public view. Now 
all this circumstance of demise, this consequential pomp 
of posthumous adornment, ought surely to have an elevating 
influence upon the bullock and his friends. 

They are the descendants of " the wild herds that own 
no master's stall," of the reem — the animal that had such 
wide horns that Noah (so the Talmudists say) could not 
get it into the ark, and had to tow it behind — and of the 
urus, which Julius Csesar says was only a trifle smaller than 
the elephant. And to-day they are the brothers of the 
American bison, "the majestic brute that roams in herds 



The Poets Herds. 

which shake the earth," and of the gigantic gour of the 
Indian swamps. It is not true (though the natives believe 
it is) that the latter snuffs up chunks of stone with its 
nostrils, and then disc'. m with the force of a c 

pult at those who attack it, but it is beyond doubt that the 
gour shows no hesitation whatever in charging anything 
that stands in front of it. 

In the East the whole family of ''horned beas: 
treated with superstitious reverence, for all the animals 
which are the " ' or " vehicles " of the gods are sacred, 

and amongst these are the bull and buffalo — but above all 
the cow. For Brahma is said to have created the Brahmin 
and the cow at the same birth ; the former to offer sacrifice, 
the latter to yield the " ghee " for anointing the offering. 
The eating of ghee (or "clarified butter") in sufficient 
quantities destroys all sin — so the Hindoos say — while the 
consumption of the five products of the cow cleanses from 
all pollution. One of these is used all over India for spread- 
ing over the floors and walls on scrubbing days, and, str;, 
to say, it has the effect of cleansing them perfectly, and 
giving the rooms the fragrance of the Tonquin bean. 
" How." asks Sir George Birdwood, "would Dr. Richard- 
son explain this ? " The Hindoo explains it easily by a 
miracle. Yet the enormous importance of the cow in 
Hindooism is only of comparatively recent date, for, as the 
Brahmins themselves confess, the blessed animal is 
coeval with themselves, and until recently India has known 
so little of its ancient self that Hindoos have come to believe 
that it was ordained at the creation that man should not 
eat beef. The impulse to literary research given by British 
encouragement of education has. however, resulted in show- 
ing that the original, ante-Brahminical gods of the Hindoos 
used to eat beefsteaks habitually — it was their favourite 
diet, in fact — and, what is mor ley got very drunk 

on soma after their meals. 



2S4 The Poets Beasts. 

No animal in all the range of zoolatry has ever arrived 
at such dignities as the Hindoo cow. The monkey is suffi- 
ciently sacred, and it goes hard with the novice who, uncon- 
scious of any sacrilege, shoots the village peacocks. In 
other countries, as in the case of the dog and baboon, bull 
and ram. crocodile, hawk, and ibis of ancient Egypt, or the 
eagle and crow, snake, wolf, shark, and pike of the modern 
clan-animal worship, many birds and beasts, reptiles and 
fishes, have attracted to themselves the homage of nations. 
But, putting them all together, whether in fur, feather, or 
scales, they do not collectively outweigh the stupendous 
sanctity with which Brahminism has invested the cow. The 
bull shares in some degree his consort's honours, and in the 
more exclusively Hindoo towns sacred cattle of both sexes 
lounge about the streets. No place is forbidden to them, 
and they are free of every stall. Wherever they choose to 
feed, there they are at liberty to eat ; and wherever they 
choose to lie down, that place is theirs. The sweetmeat- 
seller may bribe the sacred bull with a lump of sugar-stuff to 
pass on to the next stall, or the grain-seller may exchange a 
chatty of cheaper grain for that into which the fastidious beast 
has plunged its black muzzle. Yet they are never struck 
and seldom reproached, except with qualifying phrases of 
respect, in which the merchant deprecates his four-legged 
visitor's displeasure, or apologises for his refusal of more 
viands on the score of his own poverty. 

The cow, and not the bull, however, is pre-eminently the 
object of worship. The latter may be specially sacred as 
the " vehicle " of this god or a particular symbol of that, 
but the former pervades the whole religion, and itself adds 
a sanctity to every deity in the Pantheon. When Brahma, 
the All-Father, took upon himself the beneficent function 
of creation, he first made the gods and then the holy men, 
and the cow and the Brahmin were produced by the same 
act of creative power. So Brahminism and the cow are 



The Poets Herds. 285 

inseparable, and the animal, the twin, as it were, of the 
holy " twice-born," takes rank above many castes of men. 
To save the life of a cow, to do it a service, to tend it in 
sickness, to revere it at all times, are almost as advantageous 
in the hereafter as if the same acts had been done towards 
a Brahmin. To kill a cow, to wound it, or to insult it, is 
reckoned, in the full austerity of Brahminism, a more 
heinous offence than similar wrongs inflicted upon the 
lower orders of Hindoos. 

The camel selected to carry the Sultan's annual gift of 
the new veil to Mecca is, in memory of El Kaswa which the 
Prophet rode, treated, while on the road, with all the pomp 
and care that would be extended to majesty itself, and the 
competition for the honourable posts of attendance upon 
the brute is sometimes very keen. So too in Egypt the 
sacred animals became, once a year, by priestly condescen- 
sion, the objects of public solicitude and recipients of 
public services. But among the Hindoos the kine live in 
the same sanctity perennially, and enjoy a universal tender- 
ness of treatment from year's end to year's end. During 
all the rest of the twelvemonth, when it is not loitering 
along the caravan-route to the Holy City, the camel of 
Islam receives but scant respect from a provoked rider or 
short-tempered owner. So, too, the furry obliquities of 
Egyptian adoration relapsed in the majority of cases and 
for the greater part of the year into their proper places in 
the animal world. But the glory of the cow of Hindostan, 
like that of its prototype in Vedic legends, is never in 
eclipse. It is always at the meridian. So to this day we 
find it in Hindoo zoolatry as the supreme expression of the 
kindliness of the powers of Nature to man, an authentic 
proof of the goodness of the gods. Though all the herds 
that other peoples worshipped have gone from the earth 
with the credulities upon which they pastured, the bull of 
Shiva and the cow of Brahma have still their altars in a 



2 86 The Poets' Beasts. 

thousand temples, and arrogate the central dignity !n a 
religion which has two hundred millions of believers. To 
this day Hindoos devoutly believe in Kamadhuk, the "cow 
of plenty/' which yields in heaven, from her exuberant 
udders, every gift and blessing which the spirit of the dead 
can demand. 

Yet, elsewhere, in the West, cattle are called prosaic 
animals, and it is a common thing for men to speak super- 
ciliously of the bovine atmosphere of bucolic society. 
From the supposed stupidity of kine the dulness of all 
such as have their being among them is arbitrarily inferred. 
The companionship of the bulky, slow-moving, cud- 
chewing things is presumed to have a corresponding effect 
upon the temperaments of those who are much with them. 
To call a man a buliock is to suggest that he is clumsy- 
footed and thick-headed, with an inert mind in a heavy 
body. 

Even the poets are of this way of thinking. They have 
the same name for the animals and the men that tend 
them ; they are all " herds " together, and which is the 
more " simple," the quadruped or the biped, it were hard 
to decide. But it is quite certain that the poetical "herd" 
is as nearly an idiot as man could be without positively 
gibbering, and his "patient charges," if absence of char- 
acter be significant of defective intelligence, are not much 
above him. 

" The bound of all bis vanity, to deck 

With one bright bell a fav'rite heifer's neck.'' 

Yet the poets make excellent use of their cattle, and the 
complete calendar of the year might be easily constructed 
out of the moods of the kine in verse. 

Spring is quiet with "placid beeves" " unworried in the 
meads," " the calm pleasures of the pasturing herds," and 
"the tranquil tinkle of the heifer's bell." 



The Poets Herds. 2S7 

" Straight to the meadow then he whistling goes, 
With well-known halloo calls his lazy cows, 
Down the rich pasture heedlessly they graze, 
Or hear the summons with an idle gaze ; 
For well they know the cow-yard yields no more 
Its tempting fragrance, nor its wini'iy store. 
Reluctance marks their steps, sedate and slow, 
The right of conquest all the law they know. 
Subordinate they one by one succeed, 
And one among them always takes the lead, 
Is ever foremost, wheresoe'er they stray, 
Allowed precedence, undisputed sway. 
With jealous pride her station is maintained, 
For many a broil that post of honour gained." 

Then comes Summer with its flies and "restless herds" 
with tails perpetually on the swing. They rush from their 
tormentors into the pools. 

" What time the cow stands knee-deep in the pool, 
Lashing her sides for anguish, 

Scaring off with sudden head reversed the insect swarm, 
That basks and preys upon her sunny hide, 
Or when she flies with tufted tail erect, 
The breeze- fly's keen invasion to the shade, 
Scampering madly." 

This breeze-fly is specially popular with the poets as 
a summer detail. Spenser draws an illustration of the 
" World's Vanity " therefrom — 

" In summer's day, when Phoebus fairly shone, 
I saw a Bull as white as driven snowe, 
With gilden homes embowed like the moone, 
In a fresh flowring meadow lying lowe ; 
Up to his eares the verdant grasse did growe, 
And the gay flowres did offer to be eattn ; 
But he with fatnes so did overflowe, 
That he all wallowed in the weedes downe beaten, 
Ne car'd with thorn his daintie lips to sweeten : 
Till that a Brize, a scorned little creature, 



2 88 The Poets Beasts. 

Through his faire hide his angrie sting did threaten, 
And vext so sore, that all his goodly feature 
And all his plenteous pasture nought him pleased : 
So by the small the great is oft diseased." 

Next Autumn with its cattle "conscious of storms,*' "and 
huddling side by side, in closest ambush seek to hide," 
Winter with its " miry herds '* or " kine in stalls." 

Winter is, indeed, a season of horrors for the poets' herds. 
In the morning — 

" Driven from their stalls to take the air, 
How stupidly they stare ! and feel how strange ! 
They open wide their smoking mouths to low, 
But scarcely can their feeble sound be heard ; 
Then turn and lick themselves, and step by step 
Move, dull and heavy, to their stalls again.'" — J. Ba: 

This is bad enough, but it is much worse sometimes. 
They go afield, but there " in icy garments mourn, and wildly 
murmur for the spring's return " (Crabbe). They then return 
" from the untasted fields," and " wail their wonted fodder, 
not, like hungering man, fretful if unsupplied, but silent, 
meek '"' (Cowper), while " drooping the labourer-ox, stands 
covered o'er with snow, and then demands the fruit of all his 
toil" (Thomson). After this the end cannot be far — 

" The grazing ox lows to the gelid skies, 
Walks o'er the marble meads with wuh'ring eyes ; 
Walks o'er the solid lakes, snuffs up the wind, and dies." 

The seasons, again, could be divided off almost into 
months — so punctually are the changes in cattle-life noted ; 
while the different periods of the day have each of them 
their herds characteristic of the hour and in keeping with 
the weather. 

The cool air of the dewy morning, the still heat of noon, 
the languor of the afternoon, the quiet of evening — are all 
marked off by their special cattle features \ and rainy 



The Poets Herds. 2S9 

weather and fine, hot and cold, present us with just as 
different aspects of the herds as the seasons. In the 
morning 

'•' The cattle are grazing, 
Their heads never raising, 
There are forty feeding like one " ( Wordsworth) ; 

and there is 

" A balm, 
Of palpable and breathing calm, 
By song of birds confessed, 
And gentle kine that graze and move, 
Spotting the misty pastures o'er." — Faber. 

The sun rises higher over "green valleys musical with 
lowing kine" — the "lowing vales," as several poets auda- 
ciously called them 1 — and with "the heifer's wandering 
bell." And then noon. If it be summer — 

"A various group the herds and flocks compose — 
Rural confusion ! On the grassy bank 
Some ruminating lie ; while others stand 
Half in the flood, and, often bending, sip 
The circling surface. In the middle droops 
The strong laborious ox, of honest front, 
Which incomposed he shakes ; and from his sides 
The troublous insects lashes with his tail, 
Returning still. Amid his subjects safe, 
Slumbers the monarch swain ; his careless arm 
Thrown round his head, on downy moss sustained ; 
Here laid his scrip, with wholesome viands filled ; 
There, listening every noise, his watchful dog." 

If winter, there is Cowper's picture — 

" The very kine that gambol at high noon, 
The total herd receiving first from one 
That leads the dance, a summons to be gay, 

1 Tennyson says the ox fills " the horned valleys " with his lowing. 
Is this an analogous instance of the transfer of epithet ? 

T 



290 The Poets Beasts. 

,:gh wild their strange vagarie?, and uncouth 
•. resolved with one consent 
To give such act and utterance as they may 
. istacy too big to be suppressed." 

The herds " screened from the sun and from molesting 
bite of vexing flies, peaceful enjoy the cool and fragrant 
meal," and ao on to evening, when " the horned cattle will 
forget to feed, and come home lowing from the grassy 
mead." We iaear them "rub the pasture's creaking gate," 
and see them , in the yard, " their rustling feast enjoy, 
and snatch sw(iet mouthfuls from the passing boy." If the 
weather be stormy, we see them in the morning " on the 
scowling heavens cast a despairing eye," at noon "gaze 
upon the gloor.n, and, seemly, dread the threatened storm 
to come." "with broadened nostril to the sky upturned, 
the conscious heifer sniffs the stormy gale." 

In poetry, therefore, the cow is regularly recurrent as a 
.re of the passing day or changing year; indeed, if we 
except the birds as a class, no other image is such a 
favourite with the bards as the herd. Whether they speak 
of them colle ft beavies," and " patient kine," 

or, individually, .as the "lordly stiff-necked bull," "the 
tyrant of the field," — the "milky mother," — "the strong 
laborious ox with honest front," or " the slow team of steers 
down-sunk forehead and depending ton = ue," — "the 
lowing heifer, loveliest of the herd," — the "stubborn" 
bullock, or " the s portive calves with lifted tails," we find 
them extending to . the horned things all that sympathetic 
admiration which Ls characteristic of the poets when speak- 
ing of animals that are of direct use to man. 

The bull is a really noble animal when you are not on 
the same sice of the hedge. As Hurdis says — 

•■ T:e pleasure to approach, 
And by the str ong fence shielded, view secure 
Thy terrors, Nature, in the savage bulL 



The Poets Herds. 291 

Soon as he marks me, he, the tyrant fierce, 

To earth descends his head ; hard breathe his lun^s 

I pon the dusty sod ; a sulky leer 

Gives double horror to the frowning curls 

That wrap his forehead, and ere long is heard 

From the deep cavern of his lordly throat 

The growl insufferable." 

But when you and it are both on the same side of the 
palings, the spectacle of the bull— 

" To the hollowed earth 
Whence the sand flies, muttering bloody deeds, 
And groaning deep," 

is not nearly so inspiriting. For the beast has a reckless 
way about it that defies the calculations of the amateur— 

" At random faces, 
And whom he hits nought knows, and 
Whom he hurts nought cares." 

The professional torreador has the creature at his mercy 
and I can conceive nothing better calculated to impress 
upon the mind a befitting sense of the superiority of human 
reason over brute force and cunning, than the Portuguese 
bull-ring. The vile cruelty of Madrid is not permitted in 
Lisbon, and in the latter city therefore is to be seen the per- 
fection of courage and skill— 

" The bull's hoarse rage in dreadful sport to mock, 
And meet with single sword his bellowing shock." 

Byron has given an admirable description of the Spanish 



scene. 



The contests for "the lordship of the lowing herds" 
afford the poets some fine touches— how they "fill the 
fields with troublous bellowing," and " in impetuous battle 
mix." The baited bull was a specially favourite image 



292 The Poets Be 

with Spenser, perhaps a favourite sport His sympat: 
always with the bull, as in the following — 

" Like a wylde boll, that, being at a ha j, 

I-. \;- : :-. . .: - r:.-z .:'.-. --.. --'..--- I. 
:-.:.'- ■- : "t-iz. ::--: i :■_ ': ::. •':.-:: :. :.; 
"_ - t v;-- -.::.- i '..::: il ._: :...-.-. :..:.'. : 
I.:::::;::.:: :::i ':■:.'; —.-.':. '::-:-: . 
And Beef - g -:. QbebJD '.-. i .:':. Yam in Dombei; 
T 1 .:. >...: :..: ::7i. :.z ..:■ . :':.z :::-.-. !ei ~"--r. -• 
And threats bis bonis, and bellows like the thonder : 
So did that squire bis foes disperse and drive asonder." 

The bullock is, in the poets, very properly the type 
of headstrong, unmanageable youth, without the mature 
dignity of the bull, but a sufficient measure of dangerous 
potentiality. 

Oxen are "sluggish," "stubborn," "dull," 'toiling," "moyl- 
ing," "tired," "patient," "willing," "slowpaced," "faint" 

■ 7: z • .- ••:--" 
" :' ::-;•;. :t\. ::--•. ::-•■. -^ -_- ;':.z y ... : . 
V.".-.-. ..--•;■_:./ f.rdtzl ::.: f t per. '-.:.. :;-_ ■;. 
With winding shonlders and slow-pacing Coot, 
Pants." 

Hurdis wrote this from the life, or he could never have 
used the word " winding " for that laboured circular working 
of the fore-legs. Yet what noble upstanding brutes the 
oxen of the East are, and how admirably they look trotting 
along an Indian road to the rhythmic tinkling of their bells, 
with the crimson-canopied carriage behind them. 

One great poet called the cow " the milky mother," a 
phrase that does not sound so well in English as in Latin, 
but five or six adopt it from him. She is a ponderous, 
lethargic, slow-footed personage, but benevolent and 
quiL Those who live in the country may not be c: 
same opinion, for many milky mothers are very awkward 
'. '. — 



The Poets Herds. 

"Straight down she ran like an enraged cow 
That is berobbed of her youngling dear " — 

and after all, in the matter of being tossed, it does not 
matter much whether you are pitchforked by a " tyrant of 
the herd " or a " milky mother." Sancho swore they were 
clothworkers from Segovia : the Don said they were m 
cians. Whichever they wei aire's bones ached for 

ever so many cays, and his self-respect :d out of 

him for the rest of his life. 

The heifer is always, in the poets, a thing of V. 

" balmy-breathing, 7 ' " sleeker than night-swollen 
mushrooms " ( Keats). Yet they like to see it, in the tradi- 
tional tigress fashion, looking on while rivals combat to 
death for her possession — 

•• A lowing heifer, loveliest of the herd, 
Stood feeding by . fierce bulls prepared 

Their armed heads for fight, by fate of war to prove 
The victor worthy of the fair ont'j love." 

Xor outside the natural animal do the poets neglect 
their kine. Scattered up and down are references to 
bull-baiting — 

'• When through the town, with slow and solemn air, 
Led by the nostril, walks the muzzled bear ; 
Behind him moves, majestically dull, 
The pride of Hockley Hole, the surly bull " — 

and bull-fights — the sympathy of the poet being ah 
with the baited beast — to the kine that Egypt worshipped, 
the bovine metamorphoses of Jupiter and of Io, the beast of 
the Bethlehem stable — 

•• When He incradled was, 
In simple cratch, wrapt in a wad of I 
r.-tweene the tovlful oxe and humble 



294 The Poets Beasts. 

the punishment of Nebuchadnezzar — 

" That great proud King of Babylon, 

That would compel all nations to adore, 

And him as only God to call upon, 

Till, through celestial doom thrown out of door, 

Into an ox he was transformed of yore " — 

Brahma's white bull and Europa's — 

" Now lows the milk-white bull on Afric's strand, 
And crops with dancing head the daisied land ; 
With rosy wreaths Europa's hand adorns 
His fringed forehead, and his pearly horns ; 
Light on his back the sportive damsel bounds, 
And pleased he moves along the flower)' grounds, 
Bears with slow step his beauteous prize aloof, 
Dips in the lucid flood his ivory hoof; 
Then wets his velvet knees, and wading laves 
His silky sides amid the dimpling waves" — 

the bulls of heraldry, notably the " dun " the bulls of 
Percy — 

" Lord Westmoreland his ancient raised, 
The Dun Bull he raised on high " — 

the cows of popular superstition — white, black, and " shelly 
coated." dappled, and sand-red, and brindled — and many 
other creatures of story and myth, from Taurus of the zodiac 
to the cow of Dunsmore Heath, of which the horn, albeit 
an elephant's tusk is shown to this day, in proof of the 
great Earl's great achievement. 




XII. 



SOME POETS' HORSES. 



It is curious that poets should see so little of the natural 
animal in the horse. As a beast, a quadruped, they 
absolutely ignore it. It is only in its artificial varieties 
that they recognise it at all, and even then so seldom as 
to surprise the student of their pages. About the horse 
particular, individual steeds of fame, a volume might easily 
be gathered from our poets. But of the creature in Nature 
they say nothing. The beast has become so thoroughly 
relative that it has lost all individuality. It is either the 
other half of a cavalier, a warrior, a war-chariot, a plough, 
a coach, or a cart, or something else, that it cannot be 
contemplated apart from its rider, its accoutrements, or the 
vehicle it draws. All other animals have characters of their 
own. The horse has none. It varies only according to the 
kind of man on its back or the kind of thing behind it. 
Attach a plough to it, and it becomes at once " heavy" and 
"dull;" set a soldier upon it, and it is "fiery" and 
" proud." When ladies ride, their horses turn to " milk- 
white palfreys ; " the hero of a poem, whether knight or 
highwayman, bestrides, as a rule, a "courser." There are 
also "swift-heeled Arabians," and "barbs," and "jennets;" 
but these are not meant for real horses. 

There is, of course, nothing surprising in the fact that 
poets have but little in sympathy with stable-boys or book- 



296 The Poets Bl asts. 

makers. When they do speak of grooms they rate them as 
second-class horses, and the " horsey " gentleman as an in- 
ferior amateur groom. This is. poetically, as it should be ; 
but, on the other hand, when we remember that near', 
history has been made on horseback, and that it is to the 
character of that animal that man is indebted for the 
moiety of his achievements, it strikes strangely to find 
the poets so consistently disregarding the strongly-marked 
individuality of the horse. Its sympathy with human 
beings — as is the case with the poets' dogs also — has 
doubtless much to do with the doubling-up of the animal 
with its master. Whatever nature it may show, it is always 
in accordance with that of its rider. Its temper a'.~ 
matches its trappings is in keeping with its 

harness. 

Once upon a time — so the Greeks had the story 1 — Athena 
and Poseidon contended for the honour of being the best 
friend of humanity, and. to clinch his claim, the ocean-god 
created for the use of man the horse. Olympus had to 
arbitrate between the rival divinities, and eventually decreed 
in favour of Athena's olive-tree, " for,'' said Zeus, u I fore- 
see that man will pervert the gift of Poseidon to the 
purposes of war." 

Appeal, however, lies from the judgment 0/ the Thunderer 
to the ultimate voice of history, and if <; in the fulness of 
time " we could ask the question again, Eternity would 
certainly reverse the decree of the Olympian bench, for 
the horse has done far more for man than salad oil. 

In myth it is always noble. No monstrous form in 
the classics has dignity except the Centaur, the Asvinau of 
the Hindoos. The conjunction of man and horse in one 
being was not considered degrading. 

1 How miserably the poets use this beautiful episode. See, for 
instance, Congreve (To the Earl of Godolphin), or Parnell (The 
Horse and the Oiive). 



Some Poets Horses. 297 

To complete the majesty of deities, they rode or drove 
horses. In primitive legend they go in pairs — the black 
steed of Night with the grey of the Morning, the red horse 
of Carnage and the white of Death. In the sunrise and the 
sunset there glitter the peacock-feathered manes of the 
coursers of the sky. The spirit of the Whirlwind sweeps 
along charioted by a swarthy team. Thunder and Light- 
ning, the' terrific Dioscuri, ride in the heavens upon their 
neighing, fire-breathing, stallions. The rain-god Indras 
comes up drawn by the Rohits, " the brown ones ; " the 
Dawn has harnessed to her car three dappled greys. From 
the stables of Asgard issue Hrimfaxe and Skimfaxe, the 
steeds of Day and Night, just as from the stalls of Olympus 
the Hours lead forth Xanthos " the golden," and Belios 
" the mottled," and Memnon's mother — " Tithonia conjux" 
— springs from bed to chariot, and, shaking their dewy 
manes, Lampas and Phaethon whirl her upwards through the 
reddening skies to awaken gods and men. 

The spirits are all mounted — " Heaven's cherubim, 
horsed upon the sightless coursers of the air" — '•'night-roam- 
ing ghosts, by saucer-eyeballs known" (Gay) — "the Kelpy 
on its water-palfrey" (Wordsworth) — the angels of death, 
whose "coal-black steeds wait for men" (Jean Ingelow) — 
the fays of Collins on milk-white steeds, and of Shelley on 
"the coursers of the air," the elfin king of Leyden on his 
coal-black horse that goes with noiseless hoofs. Ossian's 
steeds — " bounding sons of the hill," like every other 
animal in that tiresome imposture — are wreaths of mist. 
But more substantial, in their way, are the night-steeds of 
the moon in Campbell, the " pale horses " of famine, war, 
and plague (Mallet), the white horse, splashed with blood, 
which Anarchy rides in Shelley, and the " pale horse," 
which is the steed of death in a score of poets. Coleridge 
makes fun of it — 



2 9$ The Poets Beasts. 

' • A Poihecary on a white horse, 
Rode by on his vocations, 
And the Devil thought of his old fr;-:. 
Death in the Revelations." 

But it is reserved for Eliza Cook to speak of " the brave 
iron-grey," which is Eternity s Arab ! 

The Oriental horse-myths have their exponent in Sir 
William Jones, whose "green-haired steeds," " with verdant 
manes," gallop through the skies. "The seven coursers 
green" of Love and Bounty, "with many an agate hoofed, 
and pasterns fringed with pearl," and those others, u the 
steeds of noon's effulgent king, that shake their green manes, 
and blaze with rubied eyes," are strictly in sympathy with 
Hindoo tradition. Campbell, on the same theme, wanders, 
as usual, into sunless skies of error. 

Of horses more specifically, historically, individual, there 
is a multitude, of course. Starting from the commence- 
ment, there is the wild Scythian, supposed (by Phineas 
Fletcher) to drink the blood of the horse he is riding— 
" yet worse ! this fiend makes his own flesh his meat " ■ — 
and the horses of ancient tradition, such as that * : wondrous 
horse of brass on which the Tartar king did r i so 

we pass, through the classic steeds of Greece and Rome, 
the steeds of Caesar and Alexander, to those of mediaeval 
heroes, Arthur and the Cid ; and so al«ng the picketed 
lines of Rhenish steeds, knightly coursers, and milk-white 
palfreys of the old-ballad age, to the horse of Mazeppa, and 
the Tartar steeds of the revolt of Islam. 

The horses of St. Mark and of Pharaoh, of which Miriam 
sang when she went up before the host, with all the women 
with timbrels and dances — of Darius, which neighed him 
into the throne of Persia — of Diomed, anthropophagous 
brutes, "Thracian steeds with human carnage wild — 

" Which fell Geryon nursed, their food 
The flesh of man, their drink his blood " 



Some Poets' Horses. 299 

— of Nereus, the sea-horses, a very favourite fancy of the 
poets — of Dan Phoebus — 

" When he doth tighten up the golden reins 
And paces leisurely down amber plains 
His snorting four " — 

the air-bred and wind-begotten steeds of Thrace — the 
winged steeds of Perseus and Endymion, — and all the 
<; other foales of Pegasus, his kynde." So, step by step, pass 
to Black Besses of the heath and road, the chargers of 
our Joan-of-Arcs and other warriors of history, of Queen 
Elizabeth and other sovereigns, to the Rozinantes, Grizzles, 
and Dobbins, of Cervantes, Hudibras, and Syntax, to hacks 
of John Gilpin and the " Parish Doctor," and many a local 
hero and heroine beside whose jades are the subjects of a 
passing jest. 

I remember having seen somewhere a picture of Adam, 
in the garb of Eden, riding a bare-backed mustang, a lion 
gamboling by his side. But in Holy Writ the horse 
appears in only one aspect — as the war-horse. i: He saith 
among the trumpets, Ha ! ha ! and he smelleth the battle 
afar off, the thunder of the captains and the shouting." x 

In Genesis the name does not occur at all. Nor, as a 
matter of fact, could it do so, seeing that the first " horse " 
(the first that science* knows of) was a little, five-toed, sharp- 
nosed creature, much too small for a man of even our 
degenerate stature to ride upon, and otherwise also unsuit- 
able for a steed ; and it is, therefore, very probable that 
" the first man " never was on horseback. 

Yet the use of the animal dates back to a prodigious 
antiquity. The Assyrian sculptures show us high-bred and 
carefully-caparisoned chargers, three thousand years and 
more ago. Xor is it at all likely that they were the first to 

1 Job's splendid poem has incited several poets (Quarles, Young, 
Broome, for instance) to attempt the same theme, which, however, 
gains no accession of beauty or power from their paraphrases. 



500 Poets' Beasts. 

r of Cev. and 

■ Aryan : have wasted such a 

mi to which the 

:s show us that 

some eighteen hundred years 

en a long time in 

The r.e more than their usual 

:ribe a primitive race catching the 
se and toe is in " Be 

— 

ed mane, 

» o'er the plain, 

he course, 

; 

! 

and shaggy mane 
• of his future t 
: his own" (Hurdis), grows up, 
and for a while longer retains his libei 

•• \\\ 

■ 

. and throwing up his heels, 

Eut in due . .>ecomes a full-grown horse. 

free, 

td doom 
cay, 



Some Poets' Horses. 301 

The phrase "which ever" is not, however, strictly correct 
in England, whatever, according to Grahame, may be the 
universal rule in Scotland. For, as Cowper says — 

" The veteran steed excused his task at length, 
In kind compassion of his failing strength, 
And turned into the park or mead to graze, 
Exempt from future service all his days, 
There feels a pleasure perfect in its kind." 

This may be accepted as almost the total sum of the 
natural horse in poetry. That episode in Venus and 
Adonis, where the conduct of the young boar-hunter's steed 
suggests to the quick-witted goddess an argument from 
analogies, has suggested several exaggerated descriptions 
of the stallion at large, but they are scarcely sketches from 
the life. 

In the chase, Somerville of course excepted, the horse 
does not occupy the prominent place that might have been 
expected. Hunting is not a favourite pastime of the poet. 
He does not ride as Byron says Don Juan did — 

" So that his horse, or charger, hunter, hack, 
Knew that he had a vider on his back." 

And they skirt the subject, except so far as sentiment goes, 
with the utmost delicacy. Some, indeed, contemn "the 
squire " who takes a pride in his steed. 

Somerville, of course, is a unique exception, and his 
apostrophes of the "brave youths" who go a-hunting are 
delightful rubbish, as the opening rhapsody goes to show — 

" Hail, happy Britain ! highly favoured isle, 
And Heaven's peculiar care ! to thee 'tis given 
To train the sprightly steed, more fleet than those 
Begot by Winds, or the celestial breed 
That bore the great Felides thro' the press 
Of heroes armed, and broke their crowded ranks." 

But he knew a good horse as well as Hurdis did, and 



302 The Poets Beasts. 

was a far better sportsman than he was a poet. For the 
utter humiliation of the noble brute read Eliza Cook. 

The race-horse finds but few friends among the poets. 
They see only the cruelty of the sport The jockeys are 
" murderers," and the animals come in with " rivers of 
sweat and blood flowing from gored sides." They admire 
the animal " with his nostrils thin, blown abroad by the 
pride within,*' but they avoid it. 

The war-horse finds more frequent and appreciative 
reference, but the poets cannot shake Job off. The few 
lines of the Patriarch's poem stretch farther than all their 
laboured eulogies, just as the staff of Moses reached farther 
than the linked sceptres of all the Kings of Edom. It 
neighs and paws and snorts, but it gets no further, after all, 
than the 25th verse of the 39th chapter of the Book of Job. 
" Taboring the ground " is, however, an excellent conceit 
of Quarles, and shows an unusual judgment in plagiaris- 
ing. 

The poet's cart-horse is a most dismal creation. Not 
long ago cruelty to animals was much more prevalent than 
it is now — thanks to a society that has the eyes of Argus, 
the funds of Croesus, and the sympathy of the country — 
and from Chaucer to Wordsworth the draught-horse is a 
miserable brute, habitually ill-treated, and dying from cruel 
over-work. It is "as lene as is a rake" (Chaucer); "all 
bones and leather " (Butler); " a wretched unlucky corse " 
(Ramsay); "toil-worn" in Grahame, who seems to have 
had an exceptionally bad opinion of Scotch treatment of 
horses. Cowper implores the carter to spare his "poor 
beasts ; " Worilsworth beseeches the waggoner to be mind- 
ful of his responsibilities. Both these poets, however, pay 
a tribute of respect to the draught-horse's willingness, while 
those who know him better — Hurdis, Clare, and Bloom- 
field, for instance — admire it, " patient of the slow-paced 
swain's delay ; " or as 



Some Poets' Horses. 303 

" Up against the hill they strain, 
Tugging at the iron chain." 

Joanna Baillie has a bitter passage : is there still all the 
old truth about it ? 

*' What forms are these with lean galled sides ? In vain 
Their laxed and ropy sinews sorely strain 
Heaped loads to draw, with lash and goad urged on. 
They were in other days, but lately gone, 
The useful servants, dearly prized, of those 
Who to their failing age give no repose — 
Of thankless, heartless owners. Then full oft 
Their arched, graceful necks, so sleek and soft, 
Beneath a master's stroking hand would rear 
Right proudly, as they neighed his voice to hear. 
But now how changed ! And what marred things are these, 
Starved, hooted, scarred, denied or food or ease ; 
Whose humbled looks their bitter thraldrom show, 
Familiar with the kick, the pinch, the blow ? 
Alas ! in this sad fellowship are found 
The playful kitten and the faithful hound." 

In metaphors and analogies, similes and morals drawn 
from an original so exceptionally promising as the horse, 
the poets show themselves strangely self-denying and even 
parsimonious. In a great measure the dog forestalls it. 
Moreover, when comparisons of courage, speed, or a gene- 
rous spirit are sought there are the poets' lions and eagles 
to draw upon. The horse therefore is made an adjunct 
in description rather than a moral auxiliary. It adds a 
material feature to the scene, but affords no lesson. The 
poets, in fact, do not recognise the horse as an animal. It 
is an equipment, an adornment, furniture. 

Herbert is a very striking exception ; he has a whole 
quiver full of equine "jacula." Thus, for example, "a 
jade eats as much as a good horse ; " " Who lets his wife 
go to every feast, and his horse drink at every water, shall 
neither have good wife nor horse ; " " The master's eye 



3^4 



The Pods Beasts. 



fattens the horse :'" " For want of a nail the shoe is lost : 
for want of a shoe the horse is lost : for want of a horse 
the rider is lost;" "The horse thinks one thing, and he 
that saddles him another ; " " Speed without pains, a horse/' 
These must suffice. Cowper uses the metaphor "pack- 
horse constancy," and Churchill, though with deficient 
skill, utilises the colt as a simile for "loose Digression," 
that " spurning connection and her formal yoke, bounds 
through the forest and wanders far astray." The colt, in- 
deed, furnishes an analog}' to many things and persons that 
depreciate it, for the poets too often forget that, after all, 
innocence in the young beast sets it quite apart from the 
deliberate obliquities of reasoning humanity. 




XIII. 



SOME POETS' DOGS. 



" Mastiff, greyhound, mongrel grim, 
Hound or spaniel, brach or lym, 
Or bobtail-tyke or trundle-tail." 

Premising, in the poet's humour, that animals are only 
worthy of regard relatively to man, it follows that no animal 
is so suitable for poetical treatment as the dog, for the dog 
has virtually no independent existence. Apart from man 
it has no identity. 

For the wild dog is hardly a dog. It smells like a fox, 
has eyes that gleam in the twilight like a wolf's, is silent 
under all canine provocations to bark, and when it does 
give tongue, its howling is in a voice that is absolutely 
unlike any other created utterance. In appearance it is a 
cross between a jackal and a wolf, assuming a furry winter 
coat in high latitudes, while its manners in captivity re- 
semble neither the one nor the other. In Byron it " howls 
o'er the fountain brim, with baffled thirst and famine grim," 
but as he is speaking of the deserted courts of Hassan's 
palace, the animal intended is probably only the "pariah- 
dog " of the East, as also in the following — 

" He saw the lean dogs beneath the wall 
Hold o'er the dead their carnival ; 



306 The Pods B casts. 

Gorging and'growling o'er carcass and limb, 

They were too busy to bark at him ! 

From a Tartar's skull they had stripped the flesh, 

As ye peel the fig when its fruit is fresh ; 

And their white tusks crunched o'er the whiter skull, 

As it slipped through their jaws when their edge grew dull, 

As they lazily mumbled the bones of the dead, 

When they scarce could rise from the spot where they fed ; 

So well had they broken a lingering fast 

With those who had fall'n for that night's repast. 

The scalps were in the wild dog's maw, 

The hair was tangled round his jaw ; 

But close by the shore, on the edge of the gulf, 

There sat a vulture flapping a wolf, 

Who had stolen from ihe hills, but kept away, 

Scared by the dogs, from the human prey ; 

But he seized on his share of a steed that lay, 

Picked by the birds, on the sands of the bay, 

And see, worms of the earth, and fowls of the air, 

Beasts of the forest, all gathering there; 

All regarding man as their prey, 

All rejoicing in his decay." 

By the way, were pariah-dogs ever a feature of English 
life ? Or how is it that Spenser, Chaucer, and others talk so 
often of vagrant curs that beset well-bred dogs ; of "a sort 
of hungry dogs y-met, about a carcass in the common way," 
and so forth. It is very probable that we once had pariahs, 
just as every other half-civilised country still has them. 
This opens up, it seems to me, rather an interesting point 
for inquiry and research. At .any rate, our older poets 
evidently saw them in packs quarrelling over offal on the 
roads. 

When, therefore, the poets speak of dogs they mean the 
tamed descendants of the creatures which were given to 
man by a compassionate Providence to be his eyes and 
ears, and which centuries of experience have proved to be 
the best servants beyond all comparison that humanity has 
ever dignified into utility. Under domestication the dog 



Some Poets Dogs. 307 

has varied from its original types with such extraordinary 
ingenuity that it would now be very difficult indeed to 
resolve the different species of Europe into their primal 
elements or to refer each to its old wild-brier stock. 

I do not say it would be impossible, for I have myself 
seen so many transition-varieties between the bond fide 
" wild dog " — the tiger-hunting pack of the Indian jungles 
— and the thoroughly civilised animal, that I have no doubt 
that if travellers put their experiences together, the exist- 
ence of most of our dogs, with their present special char- 
acteristics in full development, could be traced back to 
the remotest ages. Thus, long before white men went to 
North America, the Red Indians had possessed the grey- 
hound ; the dames of old Mexico centuries ago cherished 
curly-haired lap-dogs ; the villagers of the Himalayas 
guarded their hill-paths in the Vedic days with ferocious 
thick-coated shepherd-dogs ; Nineveh borrowed the mastiff 
from Egypt — and Egypt from " Accadia." 

I yield to no one in my honourable and affectionate 
regard for the dog. But I place it far below man ; for 
man, I contend, made the dog, and I agree with him who 
says that " man is the Providence of the dog." The sagacity, 
fidelity, and disinterested, passionate attachments of the 
dog are such old facts that the person who would disbelieve 
in them can hardly be imagined; and for myself, I am 
almost afraid to think of the dog's possibilities in intelli- 
gence and affection, if its life were only commensurate with 
our own. Yet granting all this, I always find myself resent- 
ing the irrational infatuation of dog enthusiasts, and being 
thus apprehensive of the excesses of others, am perhaps 
inclined to weigh out the measure of my own admiration 
with too exact a hand. For a margin of eulogy is excusable 
for an animal that without reason learns in its short span 
of years so nearly to simulate it ; that without inherited 
data evolves from its own perceptions such an admirable 



308 TJie Poets Beasts. 

morality ; that without free agency formulates so fearlessly 
and faithfully its table of duties to be done and temptations 
to be resisted; that without any hope of a hereafter, so 
often seems to be living in expectation of a life to come. 
But the sum of all this does not reach by many figures the 
full equation of man. 

Yet the dog is a beautiful symbol, and though here and 
there individuals may exceed into Egyptian idolatry of the 
animal, it is as a type of courageous, self-forgetful friendship 
that the poets use it most justly. 

Occasionally, too. they confess that the best of dogs may 
" from the path of duty err." x As Somerville admits — 

" He may mistake sometimes, 'lis true, 
None are infallible but you ; 
The dog whom nothing can mislead 
Must be a dog of parts indeed ; " 

and as Eliza Cook delightfully illustrates in her address to 
the staghound Bran — 

•• You have strength of muscle and length of limn, 
Your jaws are deep and your beard is grim, 
Your fangs are strong and ivory white, 
Your mouth is as black as a cloudy night. 
'Tis pleasant to hear the wise ones utter 

The worth of your power and pace ; 
But why did you swallow that pound of butter, 

Dog of an ancient race?" 

So, too, Cowper, rising for once out of his indolent, 
timid life, to impatience with a little dog that persisted in 
quarrelling with others, orders it to — " go 

1 " E'en the docile pointer knows disgrace, 
Thwarting the gen'ral instincts of his race ; 
E'en so the mastiff or the meaner cur 
At times will from the path of duty err." 



Some Pods Dogs. 309 

" I care not whether east or north, 
So I no more may find thee ; 
The angry Muse thus sings thee forth, 
And claps the gate behind thee." 

To measure the real worth of a dog's attachment, the 
true value of its friendship, we have only to take any one 
of the poets' desperate assertions that the dog they deplore 
was their " only" friend. Thus Byron — 

" Ye who perchance behold this simple urn 
Pass on — it honours none you wish to mourn ; 
To mark a friend's remains these stones arise, 
I never knew but one — and here he lies." 

Now, what is the effect of this stanza on the mind ? Does 
it exalt the worth of a dog's fidelity ? or does it not rather 
fill the reader with an indignant pity for the man who in 
all this world of men and women says he could find, or 
keep, no better friend than a dog? Sympathy is of so 
subtle a crystal that it shivers to pieces at the first drop of 
cynicism, and so, instead of admiring Byron's dog the more, 
I feel inclined to admire the dog's master the less. 

By his own showing, too, the poet was barely honest 
to his one friend — - 

" Perchance my dog will whine in vain 
Till fed by stranger hands ; 
But long ere I come back again, 
He'd tear me where he stands" — 

and there is either gross injustice in this verse or false sen- 
timent in the other. And each is alike disagreeable and 
unjust. 

Meanwhile, the beauty of the dog's fidelity remains unim- 
paired, and when the same poet (in his terrific dream of 
" Darkness ") pays the tribute of his verse to the hound 
faithful even to death, he commands a universal sympathy — 



310 The Poets Beasts. 

•• With a piteous and perpetual moan 

And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand 
Which answered not with a caress — he die I." 

Mary Howitt's lines — 

" My mother is dead, and my father loves 
His dogs far more than me," 

are within the facts, and so too is Tennyson's 

"He will hold thee when his passion shall have spent its moral force 
Something better than his dog, something dearer than his horse." 

Nothing, of course, can prevent a Cowper making even 
a dog's friendship sometimes ridiculous, nor an Eliza Cook 
arousing one's furious scorn with such a couplet as this — 

" Xor deem me impious if I say 
That next to God I hold my hound." 

What a confession of faith — to worship God, and love her 
dog better than her neighbour ! But where the poet does 
not fall a victim to want of taste or to cheap cynicism, the 
expression of affection for a worthy dog is always sure to 
command a reasonable sympathy with the writer, if only for 
the reason that the dog is one of man's finest triumphs. 

King Lear bemoans it as " the most unkindest cut of all," 
that the dogs about his palace, " the little dogs and all," 
should bark at him. How many men have said it in half 
earnest that they place their hopes no higher than the 
Red Indian who " in another life expects his dog, his bottle, 
and his wife," and that they envy Tobit and Arjuna their 
canine companions in heaven — 

" He asks no angel's wings, no seraph's fire, 
But thinks, admitted to that equal sky, 
His faithful dog shall bear him company." — Pope. 

It forms a feature, therefore, of all the happiest aspects 
of life, is an emblem of the security and tranquil domestic 



Some Poets Dogs. 3 1 1 

simplicity that are accepted as characteristic of the poetical 
country-side. 

The dog at ease is significant of auspicious times and 
events ; the miserable one ominous of disaster present or 
to come. The lazy dog is a feature of the summer's day, 
and the active one of winter and spring. It is on the hills 
with the shepherd, on the road with the carter, in the 
corner of the field with the ploughman. No door or gate 
opens without its appropriate dog. Guests, good and bad, 
are to be distinguished by the kind of dogs that meet 
them. 

And there are few incidents of the animal's life that have 
not been noted. The meeting of strange dogs, their making ■ 
acquaintance, their courtships, the birth of puppies, their 
blindness, and sometimes untimely death by drowning ; the 
playing of the puppies with the children of the house, their 
being reared as members of the family circle, their entering 
upon the duties of life, their different careers, and the 
various incidents of each. And what delightful vignettes 
they often suggest ! Grahame's haymaking dog for instance, 
or Joanna Baillie's summer-afternoon dog — 

" Silence prevails — 
Nor low, nor bark, nor chirping bird is heard, 
The shady nooks the sheep and kine convene ; 
Within the narrow shadow of the cot 
The sleepy dog lies stretched upon his side, 
Nor heeds the footsteps of the passer-by, 
Or at the sound but raises half an eyelid, 
Then gives a feeble growl and sleeps again, 
While puss composed and grave on threshold stone 
Sits winking in the light." 

And Jean Ingelow's delightful sketch of the fisherman's 
puppies — 

" The village clogs and ours, elate and brave, 
Lay looking over, barking at the fish ; 



Beasts. 

ic the bait, 
And when the ■ .i floundered on the i 

~-jtis misery, a bd 

jp would deal, then back away, 
them with sagacious d 

slippery th 

I play or at war, s: era bone, quarrelling over 

a piece of meat, crouching under the lash, barking at pass- 
ing beggars, barking at nothing, asleep, awaking, awake, 
the grass or dus: ".rinking, chasing cats, 

ng cats, annoyed by flies, wistful, honest, 
_wning: big dogs beset by little ones, 
js" hour. .egree; the poor man's 

'. man's dog, the poacher's dog, the mad dog ; 
— in each and all these phases we find the dog in pot 

mood of temper, no circumstance of life 

which, in one poet or another, the animal 

does not figure, from the | :nd to the dog 

.d — 

! ?lung 

ilesh obscene of 
est of cock purlo::. 
From his accustomed per 

: f all terms of reproach, the whole world over, and 

from time immemorial, none is comparable in frequency of 

provocative potentialities on the individual 

abused, to the name of our best friend. "Treacherous, 

and so forth, could be multiplied 

I Dm the poets if there were any need to go 

:.ce to the ignominy of the name. 

Sper Book vi. c. vi. $$) the phrase 

._ and in I -tanza "cowheard 

fear-; [n stanza a r, we find "craven cowherd 

in u cowardize doth delight." These spellings 

occur in Johnson's edition, and, though I have not met 



Some Poets Dogs. 3 1 3 

with it, I make no doubt commentators have elucidated 
this complexity of etymology. 

Even more curious, perhaps, is it that the hound, held in 
such special honour, should if possible suggest an aggrava- 
tion of the dog reproach. All over the world, in every 
language from the far East to the far West, among savages 
of all countries and from the earliest days to the present 
time, " dog " is the supreme epithet of scorn. Whenever 
a European goes among an unfriendly population he is a 
"dog of an infidel," "a Christian dog;" and the worst 
that savages can say of him is that he "eats dog's meat." 
and has "dog's teeth." But for us, who have evolved the 
hound from the dog, the former stands a point in contempt 
below even the latter. 

In the same spirit the canine element in a composite 
monster horribly enhances its deformity. How abominable 
the Scylla form always is — 

" Thereto the body of a dog she had, 
Full of fell ravin and fierce greedinesse." 

" Cur " is in poetry a genus which includes many specific 
varieties— " mongrel of low degree," "bob-tailed tyke," 
"trundle-tail," "curtail dog," and so forth. It has long 
been in use as a term of reproach ; and in this sense the 
poets always use it. Thus Wyati's " curs do fall by kind 
on him that hath the overthrow," and Herbert's "babbling 
curs never want sore ears." And King's 

" Cur of shabby race, 
The first by wand'ring beggars fedj; 
His sire, advanced, turned spit for bread, 
Himself each trust had still abused, 
To steal what he should guard was used 
From puppy ; known where'er he came, 
Both vile and base, and void of shame." 

In the same way " puppy " and, with less reason perhaps 



314 The Poets' Beasts. 

"whelp." '• A fierce Hibernian whelp" is, in Hurdis, 
curiously enough, a metaphor for a Scotchman, and " wanton 
whelp that loves to gnaw," in Davenant for disease. Now, 
seeing that man has given the young of a dog its name, 
it is an illustration of human unfairness to arbitrarily attach 
to the word any disagreeable significance. But whether 
we call them puppies or whelps the result is much 
same to the animal. 

Poetical proverbs and metaphors, all harping on the 
worst points of the dog, are very numerous ; and as curious 
as any, to my mind, are Watt's well-known lines, " Let dogs 
delight to bark and bite, for God hath made them so" in 
which he throws the responsibility for the dog's implacable 
ferocity upon an inscrutable Providence. " He that lies 
with the dogs riseth with the fleas" (Herbert); "dog in 
office, set to bark all beggars from the door " ( Hood) ; " the 
miserable pack that ever howl against fallen greatness" 
(Rogers) ; " two-legged dogs still pawing on the peers " 
(Pitt) ; " he can snap as well as whine " (Pope) ; " in 
every country dogs bite," and " look not for musk in a 
dog's kennel " (Herbert) ; M it is an houndes kynde, to 
bark upon a man behynde " (Gower). Avarice is a dog- 
madness (Young) ; Russians are "the dogs of Moscow," 
" Jews the curs of Nazareth " (Byron) ; " Malice is a cursed 
cur " (Pope). The Furies, like clinging crime, in Shelley, 
" track all things that weep and bleed and live, as lean 
dogs pursue through wood and lake some struck and 
sobbing fawn." Spaniards, in Phineas Fletcher, are "curres 
whelpt in Spain " — the laws of murder (Mallet) ; the meanly 
envious, that " ever howl against fallen greatness" (Rogers). 
Quarles likens the prayers of an unrepentant man to the 
howling of a dog, and associates dogs and devils in a 
curious way — 

" Depart like dog?, with devils take your lot, 
Depart like devils, for I know ye not ; 



Some Poets Dogs. 3 1 5 

Like dogs, like devils goe, goe howle and barke, 
Depart in darknesse, for your deeds were darke." 

But not only, of course, does every mood of the canine 
character find abundant recognition in our poets, but every 
variety also of the animal ; above all, each variety of hound 
used in sport. 

" Trusty household guardians, mastiffs fell 
Nightly to watch the walls, 
Stout terriers that in high-hilled Sutherland 
Beat up the wild cat's lodge or badgers rouse ; 
And russet bloodhounds, wont near Annand's stream 
To trace the sly thief with avenging foot, 
Close as an evil conscience, still at hand : 
Fleet greyhounds that outrun the fearful hare 
And many a dog beside the faithful scent 
To snuff his prey, on eager heel to scour 
The purple heath and snap the flying game." 1 

Supreme of course as a creature of the chase is the fox, 
and its correlative, the foxhound, is therefore proportion- 
ately conspicuous. 

" Of horn and morn and hark and bark, 
And echo's answering sounds, 
All poets' wit hath ever writ 
In doggiel verse of hounds." 

A reasonable quantity of rubbish was only therefore to 
be expected. But bearing in mind the excessive sympathy 
of the poets for the birds of sport and their habitual 
lamentations over pheasants and partridges, the robust tone 
in which they approve of the doings of foxhounds, beagles, 
staghounds, otter-hounds, badger-hounds, spaniels, pointers, 
and the rest, comes upon the student of poetical psychology 
as a surprise. It would be too much, of course, to say 
that the general tendency of poets to dislike wild beas:s 

1 Leyden. 



3 16 The Poets Beasts. 

influences them in their opinion of the anim:. man 

has taught to kill those quadrupeds; but it really does 
seem as if the poets' aversion to foxr ::ers, 

badgers, boars, and their indifference to rabbits and hares, 
made them rather unfairly partial to their de In 

the single case of the deer (for which they have a 
sincere admiration), there arose an obvious difficulty, which 
the poets have audaciously met I ith the hounds, 

and weeping with the deer. They " hang on the haunc. 
of s:. . le tears chase each own the innocent 

noses " of their victims. 

Some poets of the chase, however, have very c 
opinions as to its morality generally. On the one side are, 
as examples, Somerville and Gay, on the other Thomson 
and Cowper. These, being altogether on the side of the 

:ns, hold with the hares. Those, affecting a prodigious 
indignation against the robbers of hen-roosts and consumers 
of sprouting wheat, hunt with the hounds. 1 lust 

their satire and denunciation against the hunters. Those 
against the hunted. And neither are 

:he just middle of sport is an easy one to hit, and 
the significances of our national pastime are admirable 
themes for the moralist and poet It is not necessary for 
poetical fidelity to be either cruel with the one or g 
the other. It is not more remarkable that foxes should eat 

e than that geese should eat grass, nor more culpable ; 
and for the men whom England has been most proud of, 
they are rather those who have ridden straight to hounds 
with Somerville, not those v. _ th Thomson. 

We can never have too many fox-hunting youths, but a 
few Cowpers are enough. For myself, all sport has a dark 

in the death of the victim. I eat the lamb 
equanimity, and "the pullet of tend; .out 

mingling my tears with its sauce. I g ret the death 

ie fox and the otter. My sympathy is with Nature, and 



Some Poets Dogs. 3 1 7 

not with the stock-yard. I had rather, if sheep had the speed 
and pluck of foxes, hunt a sheep than a fox. But the poets' 
sympathy is with the villatic and the domesticated, not with 
the independent and the wild. 

One poet at any rate — Somerville — was sportsman first 
and p'oet afterwards, and his rhymed instructions for the 
breeding, rearing, and hunting of hounds is an admirable 
instance of poetical ingenuity applied to an obstinately 
technical subject. A notice of his poem in some detail 
will cover all the others on the same subject, and may be 
accepted, from the unswerving similarity of poetical " hunts," 
as typical of all ; while by selecting Somerville as the spokes- 
man I give the other poets the advantage of that knowledge 
of the subject in which they are so conspicuously deficient. 

He commences by describing the origin of hunting, and 
the rude manner of the first hunters — 

" Wl en Ximrod bold, 
That mighty hunter ! first made war on beasts 
And stained the woodland green with purple dye, 
New and unpolished was the huntsman's art ; " 

and goes on to state that at first the chase was only a means 
towards sacrifice, but afterwards a necessity for food, the 
Creator having added flesh to man's vegetable diet — 

" So just is Heaven 
To give us in proportion to our wants." 

Then comes a gap from Cain to William the Conqueror, 
bridged over by the poet only with a passing allusion to 
"our painted ancestors being slow to learn." But the 
Conquest arrives, and 

" Victorious William to more decent rules 
Subdued our Saxon fathers, taught to speak 
The proper dialect, with horn and voice 
To cheer the busy hound, whose well-known cry 
His listening peers approve with joint acclaim. 



3 i S The Poets Beasts. 

From him successive huntsmen learned to join 
In bloody social leagues, the multitudes 
Dispersed, to size, to sort, train various tribes 
To rear, feed, hunt, and discipline the pack. 
Hail, happy Britain ! highly favoured isle, 
And Heaven's peculiar care ! " 

He then describes in detail the arrangements for the kennel, 
insisting upon the necessity for perpetual watchfulness, 
especially when the hounds are at food or at play. 

" Which too often ends 
In bloody broils and death, 

... for oft in sport 
Begun, combat ensues ; growling they snarl, 
Then on their haunches reared, rampant they seize 
Each others' throats ; with teeth and claws in gore 
Besmeared, they wound, they tear, till on the ground 
Panting, half-dead, the conquered champion lies, 
Then sudden all the base ignoble crowd 
Loud clam'ring seize the helpless, worried wretch, 
And thirsting for his blood, drag difTrent ways 
His mangled carcass o'er the ensanguined plain. 
O breasts of pity void ! t'oppress the weak, 
To point your vengeance at the friendless head, 
And with one mutual cry insult the fall'n ; 
Emblem too just of man's degenerate race." 

Directions are then given for the choice of hounds for the 
different kinds of chase, pointing out the necessity for 
selecting animals of medium size, and containing the 
following description of the poet's " perfect " foxhound — 

" See there, with count'nance blithe, 
And with a courtly grin, the fawning hound 
Salutes thee cow'ring, his wide-op'ning nose 
Upward he curls, and his large sloe-black eyes 
Melt in soft blandishments and humble joy. 
His glossy skin, or yellow pied, or blue, 
In lights or shades by Nature's pencil drawn, 
Reflects the various tints ; his ears and legs, 



Some Pods Dogs. 3 1 9 

Flecked here and there, in gay enamelled pride 

Rival the speckled pard ; his rush-grown tail 

O'er his broad back bends in an ample arch : 

On shoulders clean, upright and firm he stands : 

His round cat-foot, straight hams, and wide-spread thighs, 

And his low-dropping chest, confess his speed, 

His strength, his wind, or on the steepy hill 

Or far extended plain ; in ev'ry part 

So well proportioned that the nicer skill 

Of Phidias himself can't blame thy choice ; 

Of such compose the pack. 

But here a mean 
Observe, nor the large hound prefer. 

For hounds of middle size, active and strong, 

Will better answer all thy various ends 

And crown thy pleasing labours with success." 

For " the amphibious otter " or rt stately stag " he advises 

" The deep-flewed hound, 
Strong, heavy, slow, but sure ; 

Whose ears down-hanging from his thick round head 
Shall sweep the morning dew, whose clanging voice 
Awake the mountain echo in her cell 
And shake the forests. " 

And then comes a page or two on the " lime-hound " — 

" The bold Talbot kind 
Of these the prime, as white as Alpine snows, 
And great their use of old " 

on the Borders to track human culprits, cattle-lifters, and 
horse-thieves. 

A whole book then follows on the virtues of the beagle 
and the merits of hare-hunting, but reverting, as antithesis 
to " so mean a prey," to the sketch of a wild beast hunt in 
the days of the Great Mogul. Book III. finds us back in 
England in the days of King Edgar and wolves, and from 
the wolf the transition is easy to the fox. 



320 The Pods Bea 

" Oh ! how glorious 'tis 
To right th' oppressed, and bring the felor, 
To jus: disgra : 

And then follows a eulogy of fox-hunting — 

" Heav'ns ! what melodious strains, how beat our he 
Big with tumultuous joy ! The loaded gales 
Breathe harmony ; and as the tempe; 
From wood to wood, thro" every dark rec. 
The fores: thunders, and the mountains shake. 
The chorus swells. 

See how they range 
Dispersed, how busily this way and that 
v cross, examining wi:h curious nose 
Each likely ha v. : on the drag I 

Their doubtful notes, preluding to a : 
More nobly fulL and swelled with ev'ry mouth. 

The gay pack 
In the rough bristly stubbles range unblamed. 
No widow's tears o'erflow, no secre: : 

:'zt farmer's breast, which his pale lips 
Trembling conceal, by his fierce landlord awed ; 
But courteous now he levels every fence, 
Joins in the common cry, and halloos loud, 
Charmed with the rattling thunder of the field." 

The book then proceeds to give instructions for catching 
foxes in traps, and thence digresses to pitfalls for lions and 
elephants, with some hints how to hunt leopards with 
looking-glasses, returning again to England with an account 
of the royal staghounds out in Windsor Forest, remarkable, 
apart from the ecstatic narrative of the actual hunt, for an 
address to the ladies in the field — 

• • How melts my beating heart ! as I behold 
Each lovely nymph, our island's boast and pride, 
Their garments looseiy waving in the wind, 
And all the flush of beautv in their ch« 



Some Poets Dogs. 321 

While at their sides their pensive lovers wait, 
Direct their dubious course, now chilled with fear 
Solicitous, and now with love inflamed. 
O grant, indulgent Heaven, no rising storm 
May darken with black wings this glorious scene. 
Should some malignant pow'r thus damp our joys 
Vain were the gloomy cave, such as of old 
Betrayed to lawless love the Tyrian queen — 
For Britain's virtuous nymphs are chaste as fair ; " 

and an equally preposterous address to the King, who 
orders the hounds off the stag when it has been run 
into — 

" mercy, heavenly born ! sweet attribute ! " 

Book IV. reverts to details of the kennel, the care neces- 
sary in selecting " the parents of the pack " — 

" The vain babbler shun, 
Ever loquacious, ever in the wrong ; 
His foolish offspring shall offend thy ears 
With false alarms and loud impertinence. 
Nor less the shifting cur avoid, that breaks 
Illusive from the pack : to the next hedge 
Devious he stray?, there ev'ry muse he tries ; 
If haply then he cross the steaming scent, 
Away he flies vain-glorious, and exults 
As of the pack supreme, and in his speed 
And strength unrivalled. Lo ! cast far behind, 
His vexed associates pant and lab'ring strain 
To climb the steep ascent. Soon as they reach 
Th' insulting boaster, his false courage fails, 
Behind he lags, doomed to the fatal noose, 
His master's hate, and scorn of all the field. 
"What can from such be hoped but a base brood 
Of coward curs, a frantic, vagrant race ? " 

Counsel is then given for curing sheep- worrying by strap- 
ping the offender to a ram to be butted into repentance, 

x 



322 

and a long dissertation on hydrophobia, elaborately horrible, 
leads the poem to its conclusion. But 

" One labour yet remains, celestial rr. 
Another element demands my s 

and a spirited description of an otter-hunt closes "The 

For fairr.: and to strike the balance equally be- 

tween the en:' □ praise and denunciation, Thomson's 

'here (plagiarising as he goes) he condemns 
the " falsely-cheerful, barbarous game of death," should be 
read, especially the delightful account of the tipsy fox- 
hunters up at the Hall — 

" The table floating round 
And pavement faithless to the fuddled foot ; 
Thus as they swim in mutual swill, the talk, 
Vociferous at once from twenty tongues, 
Reels fast from theme to theme ; from horses, hounds, 
To church or mistress, politics or g't. 
In endless mazes, intricate, perplexed. 

e to take up the cumbrous word 
L:e Before the maudlin ej 

Seen dim and blue, the double tapers dance, 
•a sliding soft — they drop." 

; is a counterblast of course to Somer .ort 

repast and temperate,'" to which the grateful farmer in- 
the avengers of his hen-roosts. Nor less pointed is Thom- 
son's reproof to ladies in the hunting ground, that com- 
mences — 

" Let not such horrid joy 
E'er s'ain the bosom of the Br. 

.; of the chase from the 

_n together, the poems are illustrations of 



Some Pods Dogs. 325 

poetical extremes, and of the poetical weakness of false 
sympathies. 

Metaphors and similes from the chase are very numerous, 
and the "deep-mouthed," "cannon-mouthed" (Davenant), 
"chiming," "yelling," "baying" hounds are as industrious 
and as apt in poetical pursuit and apothegm as in the field. 
Wordsworth's line — "Keen as a fine-nosed hound, by soul- 
engrossing instinct driven along " — is one of the many fine 
metaphors which the subject affords. 

Remembering the lamentations of the poets over the 
'• wheeling coveys " pursued by " leaden showers," it is 
remarkable that the " full-eared " pointer and " wise-eyed " 
setter should be so warmly eulogised. When the wolf eats 
a sheep, all the sympathy is with the sheep, and when the 
leopard kills a deer the poets bewail the dead. Yet when 
the dogs of men hunt and murder a little animal which they 
are not going to eat, they applaud the dogs. And so, ex- 
tending this incongruous partiality for human weaknesses 
a step further, they congratulate the pointer, setter, spaniel, 
and retriever, upon their success in assisting man to kill. 
Even Cowper, usually so fierce in his satire and denuncia- 
tion of sport of all kinds, epitaphises a pointer without a 
word of disparagement : indeed, after the manner of epitaphs 
generally, with many compliments on his successful com- 
plicity in bloodshed — 

" Here lies one who never drew 
Blood himself, yet many slew ; 
Gave the gun its aim, and figure 
Made in field, yet ne'er pulled trigger. 
Armed men have gladly made 
Him their guide, and him obeyed ; 
At his signified desire, 
Would advance, present, and fire. 
Stout he was and large of limb, 
Scores have fled at sight of him, 



324 The Poets Beasts. 

And to all this fame he rose 
Only by following his nose. 
Neptune was he called ; not he 
Who controls the boisterous sea, 
But of happier command, 
Neptune of the furrowed land ; 
And, your wonder vain to shorten, 
Pointer to Sir John Throckmorton/' 

That Gay should applaud ' : the obsequious ranger " is not to 
be wondered at. 

The staghound — its very name is knightly — is an adjunct 
of all baronial scenes, of royal sport, of chivalrous society. 
It is the companion of chiefs and their daughters, a feature 
of earls' firesides. How Scott delighted in it, its power and 
grace. His verse is full of staghounds, though sometimes, 
as in the "Lady of the Lake," he employs bloodhounds of 
black St. Hubert's breed in pursuit of the antlered quarry. 
But what an unmitigated bore they are in Ossian, those 
"grey-bounding dogs," "long-bounding sons of the chase," 
that are for ever pursuing the everlasting " dun sons of the 
bounding roe ! " In a score of our poets, conspicuously the 
older and more robust, the staghound occupies a place of 
considerable dignity, and not without reason, for it is a 
noble animal. 

Greyhounds are " gentle " and " graceful " — " a grey- 
hound's gentle grace" is becoming both in a ship ("the 
vessel from the land, like a greyhound from the slips, 
darted forth ") and an elegant woman — so that they are 
popular with the poets. "A gentleman's greyhound and a 
salt-box, seek them at the fire." But it is as the pursuer of 
the hare that it receives most frequent notice ; and, singularly 
enough, in spite of the poets' usual sympathy with the hare 
apart from greyhounds, coursing is only here and there 
considered cruel. Gay, for instance, forgets all his kindness 
for the hare as soon as the greyhound is after it — 



Some Poets Dogs. 325 

" Let thy fleet greyhound urge his flying foe, 
With what delight the rapid course I view ! 
How does my eye the circling race pursue ! 
He snaps deceitful air with empty jaw?, 
The subtle hare darts swift between his paws. 
She flies, he stretches ; now with nimble bound 
Eager he presses on, but overshoots his ground ; 
She turns, he winds, and soon regains the way, 
Then tears with gory mouth the screaming prey. "' 

Xor less emphatic than Gay's " delight " at such a scene 
is Somerville's denunciation of it. Not, be it remembered, 
from any sympathy with the hare, but because he preferred 
killing it with harriers — 

" Nor the tim'rous hare 
O'ermatched destroy, but leave that vile offence 
To the mean, murdering, coursing crew, intent 
On blood and spoil. Oh blast their hopes, just Heaven ! " 

The spaniel, as a pet — "household spaniel," "parlour 
spaniel," " fond spaniel " — is a touch of description which 
the poets use with excellent effect as completing the 
domestic scene or rounding off strong family emotions. 
As the water-spaniel it is utilised as the disturbing element 
of water-fowl existence, the acid in the mixture that effer- 
vesces the general tranquillity of life among water-lilies. 

As the ordinary spaniel of bird-shooting, and " skilful to 
betray " when it is usually " the snuffing spaniel " — its habit 
of making a point often makes another for the poets. 
Thus Thomson — 

" In his mid career the spaniel struck 
Stiff by the tainted gale, with open nose 
Outstretched and finely sensible, draws full, 
Fearful and cautious, on the latent prey." 

While Grahame, Hurdis, Pope, and others find the simile 
of the spaniel that — 



326 The Poets Beast*. 

nt struck, 
With lifted paw, stands stiffened." 

Gay has the cocker, " the roving spy," at the copse side. 

" Cool breathes the morning air, and winter's hand 
Spreads wide her hoary mantle o'er the land ; 
Now to the copse thy lesser spaniel take, 
Teach him to range the ditch and force the brake ; 
X 1 closest coverts can protect the game. 
Hark ! the dog opens, take thy certain aim ; 
The woodcock nutters ; now he wav'ring flies ! 
The wood resounds : he wheels, he drops, he d 

In character the spaniel appears to be more feminine 
than other dogs (though Cowley uses it as a simile for 
death) and proverb has extended the resemblance into a 
humility that women of spirit will hardly concede, 1 and 
that is hardly creditable to the spaniel — " like a thorough 
true-bred spaniel licks, the hand which cuffs him and the 
foot which kicks " (Churchill). Nor indeed do the poets 
carry it altogether to the credit of the spaniel that it should 
be so eager to forgive — " the beaten spaniel's fondness not 
so strange " as a woman's love that is abused, and that, in 
spite of abuse, strengthens. " Xo sycophant although of 
spaniel race," says Cowper of his fop. Its extreme docility, 
again, affords many a contemptuous simile ; as in Pope, 

" So well-bred spaniels civilly delight 

In mumbling of the game they dare not bite." 

The sea, "spaniel-like with parasitic kiss," laps on the 
shore. 

The "baying beagle" is a general favourite, in spite of 
the hare being its victim, and a score of poets are to be 
found in the meet when puss is the game. To 

1 " A woman, a spaniel, a walnut-tree, 

The more you beat them the better they be." 



Some Poets Dogs. 327 

" See the deep-mouthed beagles catch 
The tainted mazes, and on eager sport 
Intent, with emulous impatience try 
Each doubtful trace," 

is one of Armstrong's counsels for " Preserving Health," 
and Allan Ramsay asks — 

'• What sweeter music wad ye hear 
Than hounds and beagles crying ? 
The started hare runs hard wi' fear 
Upon her speed relying." 

Now and again the poets draw a sad moral from the chase, 
as Pope, after admiring the beagles on the track, inter- 
polates in brackets — 

" Beasts, urged by us, their fellow-beasts pursue, 
And leam of man each other to undo." 

There are "wolf-dogs" in Leyden, Byron, and Words- 
worth ; and the boar-hound — not a favourite with the 
poets — being the " dastard curres " of Spenser, the defeated 
assailants in Venus and Adonis — is a frequent species — 

" Here kennelled in a brake she finds a hound, 
And asks the weary caitiff for his master, 
And there another licking of his wound 
'Gainst venomed sores the only sovereign plaster ; 
And here she meets another sadly scowling 
To whom she speaks, and he replies with howling. 
When he hath ceased his ill-resounding noise, 
Another flap-mouthed mourner, black and grim, 
Against the welkin volleys out his voice. 
Another and another answer him, 
Clapping their proud tails to the ground below, 
Shaking their scratched ears, bleeding as they go." 

Bloodhounds, " sure-nosed as fasting tigers " (Davenant) 



328 The Poets' Beasts. 

are, not unnaturally perhaps, even less popular with the 
poets. They never forget the abuse of this animal's terrific 
instinct — Moore's " precious scent " — of which man has at 
different periods of history been guilty, and the crime is 
poetically transferred from the human criminal to his inno- 
cent instrument. They are gloomily apostrophised as " ban- 
dogs." The flying slave, 

" 'Midst the shrieks of murder on the wind, 
Heard the mute bloodhound's death-step close behind," 

and the poets have never ceased to hear it ever since. It 
is " the sagacious bloodhound " in many poets, but the 
sagacity is that of the sleuth-hound, " skilled too well in all 
the murd'ring qualities of hell " (Pomfret). It is " staunch " 
also, but only in its fearful steadfastness to "the bloody 
trail." Shelley adds a horror to imprisonment in "the 
prison bloodhounds huge and grim" that were permitted 
to become familiar with the convicts whom they might 
have to track, and they are used as similes for the relent- 
less whirlwind in Faber, and for famine and pestilence in 
Shelley. Says Byron, " Kings ! 'tis a great name for blood- 
hounds," and Shelley, " the bloodhound of Religion's hungry 
zeal." 

As the "limehound," "creatures whose cold secrecy was 
meant, by Nature, for a surprise," this animal was at one time 
in demand on the Cheviot marches for tracking human 
delinquents — 

" Soon the sagacious brute, his curling tail 
Flourished in the air, low bending plies around 
His busy nose, the steaming vapour snuffs 
Inquisitive, nor leaves one turf untry'd, 
Till, conscious of the recent stains, his heart 
Beats quick ; his snuffing nose, his active tail, 
Attest his joy ; then with deep op'ning mouth 
That makes the welkin tremble, he proclaims 



Some Poets Dogs. 329 

Th' audacious felon : foot by foot he marks 
His winding way, while all the list'ning crowd 
Applaud his reas'nings. 

O'er the wat'ry flood, 
Dry sandy heaths and stony barren hills 
O'er beaten paths with men and beasts detained, 
Unerring he pursues, till at the cot 
Arrived, and seizing by his guilty throat 
The caitiff vile, redeems the captive prey : 
So exquisitely delicate his sense." 

Davenant pays them the compliment of saying " Wise, 
temperate limehounds that proclaim no scent, nor har- 
b'ring will their mouths in boasting spend," and Spenser 
and others of the older poets refer to the sleuth-hound with 
respect. Barry Cornwall's poem on the animal is an en- 
thusiastic panegyric of "the resolute fond bloodhound." 

The mastiff, strangely enough, arrives at little honour in 
the poets' company. " Sagacious of his prey," " with eye 
of fire," says Falconer, and as the opponent of " the salvage 
bull " it arrives at many compliments. In Chaucer they are 
a noble figure — 

" About his car there wenten white alauns, 
Twenty and more, as great as any steer, 
To hunten at the leon and the deer, 
And followed him with muzzle fast y'bound." 

But it is "an ill-conditioned carl," "gaunt," and "gruff," 
has to be taught manners by being kicked in the mouth by 
donkeys in Wordsworth, and, "growling at the gate," is 
possessed with a horrible longing to eat beggars in Pope. 
The sea when rough is, in Hurdis, a furious mastiff — 

" Lo ! as we speak, 
The wolfish monster kindles into rage. 
Enormous mastiff, how he gnaws his chain 
And struggles to be free, fast bound by fate 
And never to be let loose on man. 



330 The Poets Beasts. 

Aloud lie bellows, with uplifted paw 
Dances upreared, menaces the foot 
Of earth with trembling diffidence protruded. 
Lo ! the saliva of his deafening tongue 
Her pebbled instep stains : his rugged coat 
Is whitened o'er with foam." 

On the whole, it seems to me, a poet's sentiments 
towards animals generally are very much like those of an 
average girl. Both prefer little animals, with smooth skins, 
and, for choice, white. 

In this analogy perhaps is to be found the prevalent 
fastidiousness with regard to mastiffs. Ladies as a rule do 
not like them, nor do poets. When they baited bulls they 
always received a measure of admiration, and in the stouter 
verse of our older poets " the fell mastiffe " was a frequent 
simile for furious ferocity. 

" When an eager mastiffe once doth prove 
The taste of blood of some engored beast, 
No words may rate, nor rigour him remove 
From greedy hold of that his bloudy feast." 

" With that all mad and furious he grew 
Like a fell mastiffe." 

An especial favourite is of course the " officious " sheep- 
dog, "faithful to teach thy stragglers to return" (Dyer). 
But just as it is impossible to think of dogs apart from man, 
so it is very difficult to think of the shepherd-dog apart 
from sheep. For the pet "colley," so rapidly being degene- 
rated by town fashion into a cowardly sycophant, is not the 
typical shepherd-dog. It is becoming a variety by itself, 
" the colley," and seen in the street recalls no rural sound 
or sight. Far different is the unkempt muddy dog that 
may be sometimes seen driving a flock of sheep through 
the busiest thoroughfares of London. For as a rule the 



Some Poets Dogs. 3 3 1 

shepherd's dog is a mongrel — "shaggy and lean and 
shrewd, with pointed ears and tail cropped short, half 
lurcher and half cur;" but in Scotland, "there still of 
genuine breed, the colley, barking shrill-toned" — 

" Indeed, thy Ball is a bold bigge cur 
And could make a jolly hole in their fur" — 

we meet with the beautiful beast, now so popular as a pet 
in England, that Burns had before him in his glorious sketch 
of the " Twa Dogs" — 

" The tither was a ploughman's collie, 
A rhyming, ranting, roving billie, 
Wha for his friend and comrade had him, 
And in his freaks had Luath ca'd him, 
After some dog in Highland sang, 
Was made lang syne — Lord knows how lang, 
He was a gash an' faithfu' tyke, 
As ever lap a sheugh or dyke. 
His honest, sonsie, baws'nt face, 
Aye gat him friends in ilka place ; 
His breast was white, his towzie back 
Weel clad wi' coat o' glossy black ; 
His gawcie tail, wi' upward curl, 
Hung o'er his hurdies wi' a swirl." 

They are part of " the household " of the shepherd — 
" two brave dogs tried in many a storm made all their 
household " — and the reapers children lie on the summer's 
afternoon " curled up with the sheep-dogs asleep." For to 
him they are veritably his eyes and his ears, and his legs 
besides. 

•■ Waving his hat, the shepherd from the vale 
Directs his winding dog the cliffs to scale 
That, barking busy, 'mid the glittering rocks 
Hunts, where he points, the intercepted flocks." 

In the house their honesty and discipline raise them 



2,j 2 The Poets Beasts. 

almost to the level of human companions. The gilly's wife 
says, in Wordsworth — 

" This honest sheep-dog's countenance I read, 
With him can talk, nor blush to waste a word 
On creatures less intelligent and shrewd." 

Now and again, in order to point the extraordinary 
depravity of the wolf, the moral tone of the colley is so 
lowered that it connives with Sir Isegrim to destroy its 
master's flocks ; and in Mother Hubbard's Tale will be 
found the deplorable narrative of the demoralised dog that 
demoralised its master, the " disguised dog that loved 
blood to spill, and drew the wicked shepherd to his will, 
so 'twixt them both they not a lambkin left." Nor does 
Southey hesitate to picture the dog reverting to lupine 
habits : " The shepherd's dog preyed on the scattered flock, 
for there was now no hand to feed him." 

The bulldog, "with black mouth," the turnspit, that 
affords the poets the same moral and similes as the caged 
squirrel — 

" That climbs the wheel, but all in vain, 
His own weight brings him down a^ain, 
And still he's in the self-same place 
Where at the setting out he was." 

The St. Bernard's dog, "the dog of the Alps," "of grave 
demeanour, all meekness, gentleness, though large of limb " 
finds honourable mention, in spite of Eliza Cook's assur- 
ance that 

" It is not ambition that lca<Is him to danger, 

He toils not for trophy, he seeks not for fame, 
lie faces all peril and succours the stranger, 

But asks not the wide world to blazon his name," — 

in the verse of Thomson, Rogers, and others. The New- 
foundland, " the brave diver," in several, notably Burns — 



Some Poets Dogs. $33 

" The first I'll name, they ca'cl him Caesar, 
Was keepit for his honour's pleasure : 
His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs, 
Showed he was nane o' Scotland's dogs, 
But whalpit some place far abroad, 
Where sailors gang to fish for cod. 
His lockit, lettered, braw brass collar, 
Showed him the gentleman and scholar. 
But though he was o' high degree, 
The fient a pride, nae pride had he ; 
But wad hae spent an hour caressin' 
E'en \\V a tinkler-gipsy's messin : 
At kirk or market, mill or smiddie, 
Nae tauted tyke, though e'er sae duddie, 
But he wad stan't as glad to see him, 
And stroaned on stanes an' hillocks wi' him." 

The "wiry terrier rough and grim," used "to hunt the 
tod;" the "fierce otter-hounds," are all duly immortalised. 

"•Would you preserve a num'rous finny race? 
I,et your fierce dogs the rav'nous otter chase ; 
Th' amphibious monster ranges all the shores, 
Darts thro' the waves, and ev'ry haunt explores, 
Or let the gin his roving steps betray, 
And save from hostile jaws the scaly prey." 

Poets, by the way, are unanimous in their dislike of 
otters, which I attribute to the same reason as so many 
other antipathies — a false sentiment. The " hairy," " fierce " 
otter devours the "silver," "innocent " fishes ; therefore the 
otter should be detested and, if possible, murdered. 

No village is complete without its " honest watch-dog," 
whose "deep-mouthed welcome" sweetens return. Joanna 
Baillie and Clare compliment it excellently. Thomson, 
too, has a delightful scrap — 

" In a corner of the buzzing shade, 
The house-dog with the vacant greyhound lies, 
Out-stretched and sleepy. In his slumbers one 
Attacks the nightly thief, and one exults 



334 The Poets Beasts. 

O'er hill and dale ; till, wakened by the wasp, 
They starting snap." 

The poor man's dog, that shares the proverbial crust 
with its master; the blind man's dog, which alone of all 
their kind other dogs respect ; the dancing dog — all these, 
and others, find their poets. How too can I omit Gold- 
smith's mad dog. 

" And in that town a dog was found, 

As many dogs there be, 
Bo:h mongrel, puppy, whelp and hound 

And curs of low degree. 
This dog and man at first were friends ; 

But when a pique began, 
The dog, to gain his private ends, 

Went mad, and bit the man." 

Of the individual animals known to fame the list that our 
poets immortalise is very long. 

Lufra, Cavall, " King Arthur's hound of deepest-mouth," 
Luath, Beth-gelert, Berezillo (who drew the full allowance 
of a soldier in the Spanish army), Bran, Herod, Tray, Fop, 
Beau, Blanch, Sweetheart, " St. Hubert's breed ; " His High- 
ness' dog at Kew — the hounds of Actaeon " that knew him 
naught," 

" Those mistaken hounns of yore, 

That for the stag their master tore — 

and of Adonis and Diana, " this goddess on an hart full 
high sate, withsmall hounds all about her feet" (Chaucer) ; 
Geryon and Cerberus ; Malaias dog ; the dogs of Lazarus, 
of Tobit, as in Quarles — 

" What luck ha- T what grace ! what glory ! 

Thus to be kennelled in eternal story ! 
Until th' Apocrypha and Scripture sever 
The mem"ry of Tobii's dog shall live for ever " — 

and of Jezred, an interminable series. 



Some Poets' Dogs. 335 

In addition to all these more familiar species and 
individuals, the poets have many others not so well known 
to sport or science. Gower has a "wood-hound" that is 
of a benign character. Rogers, Shelley, and others have 
a "dog of carnage," and others a "carrion-hound."" A 
"hell-hound" also is to be found occasionally in their 
kennels — 

;< Behold where Melecan, a dog in fierceness, 
The savage dog of heil, 
Darts growling to his prey ; 
He flies and he returns 
All covered and all drenched with human gore." 

Superstitions about dogs are very numerous — "females 
with tormenting spells, consult their dogs as oracles " 
(Montgomery) — and none more widely spread than that 
which supposes dogs to be able to see visitors from another 
world — 

" His noble hound sprang from his lair, 

The midnight rouse to greet, 
Then, like a timid trembling hare, 

Crouched at his master's feet. 
Between his legs his drooping tail, 

Like dog of vulgar race, 
He hid, and with strange piteous wail 

Looked in his master's face"' {Joanna Baillie) — 

and that their howling, which is therefore ominous, "making 
men deem some mischief is at hand," is caused by these 
supernatural visions. " Ossian's grey dogs are always howl- 
ing at home ; they see his passing ghost." So in Kirke 
White, "filled with fear, the howling dogs bespoke unho'.y 
spirits near;" and "disturbed by dreams, with wild affright, 
the deep-mouthed mastiff bays the troubled night ; " in 
Joanna Baillie's "Ghost of Faden," and in "The Elder 
Tree," where 



336 The Poets Beasts. 

" Cowering hounds the board beneath 
Are howling with piteous moan ; 
While lords and dames sit still as death, 
And words are uttered none ; " 

frequently in Scott, as — 

" Sudden the hounds erect their ears, 

And sudden cease their moaning howl ; 

Close pressed to Moy, they mark their fears 

By shivering limbs and stifled growl ; " 

and regularly in every poet who, wanting a rhyme to owl — 
and wolves failing — or a sound of dread to complete a 
scene of general eeriness, 

" Hears upon the mountain forest's brow 
The death-dog howling loud and long." 




XIV. 



SOME POETS' CATS. 

•' A familiar bea=t to man, and signifies love." 

— M. IV. of IF. 

Just as the dog is the poetical reg^ter of the out-of-door 
life of man, the index of the pleasures and occupations of 
the open air, the " power," so to speak, of the human 
quantity, so the cat, in its differing moods and aspects, ex- 
presses the various [liases of domestic life, and stands for 
the symbol of the alternations of existence within doors. 

The Chinese, so I have read, take their time from cats' 
eyes. So the history of the family inside the house might 
be hieroglyphically written in a series of cats. 

On the garden-wall, soliloquising at the top of its voice, 
it means the household abed ; on the doorstep, with a too- 
much-whisky-overnight expression of face, it denotes the 
hour when the milkman and the sweep, like larks, " lead on 
the merry hours and rouse the day;" before the kitchen 
fire, blinking at the kettle, it signifies breakfast ; rubbing 
itself, all on the slant, against the cook's petticoats, we know 
that it is the hour of noon — of scraps from the early 
dinner ; asleep on the hearth all the afternoon, it wakes up 
with a start when the jack cracks under the twirling joint 
for the later meal ; the children's tea-hour finds it in the 
nursery ; as evening closes in it sits before the fire musing — 
" Shall I go to the club ? or what shall I do with myself 

v 



33$ The Poets' Beasts. 

to-night ?"' — and then comes darkness, and the cat is in the 
garden or on the pantiles, sitting in moonstruck reverie or 
sharing a most melancholy dialogue — 

" Or making gallantry in gutter- 1 
And sporting in delightful faggot-pi". 
Or bolting out of bushes in the dark 
(As ladies use at midnight in the park), 
Or seeking in tall garrets and alcove 
For assignations with affairs of love.'"—." 

Dejected or elated, morose or amiable, distant or familiar, 
acrimonious or conciliatory, alarmed or tranquil, dreadfully 
awake or fast asleep — in a score of other tempers and 
states of mind — puss reflects a corresponding variation" in 
the domestic barometer. It is the indicator of the fluctua- 
tions of family emotions, and apparently without sponta: 
in its moods, without independence in its actions. Its 
existence would seem to be wholly relative and m. _ 
It lives within the influence of perpetual attractions. The 
joint roasting at the fire draws it to the hearth with just 
the same mechanical regularity as the voice of the t 
meat-man does to the garden-gate. These are natural forces 
which it seems powerless to resist 

■ how is it that this little creature — the incarnation 
of evasive vagrancy, one of the most hopeless of Bohemians, 
as restless as the tides, and as fickle as the breeze, the 
ancient symbol of the goddess of Liberty, whose amiabilities 
are nearly all self-indulgence, and gratitudes self-inter^ — 
has come to be regarded as the type of domesticity and 
symbol of the hearth, where " the little Lares keep their 
round?" 

out like a 
ide senge the cattes skin, 
Than wol the cat wei dwe'.ien in hire inn : 
And if the cattes skin be sk-ke and g 
■ wol nat dwellen in hous half a db 
ol," 



Some Poets' Cats. 539 

to "show her fur and be caterwauled," as Pope has it in his 
translation of the '• Wif of Bathe's Prologue. 

The kitten's position in the household is easier to under- 
stand. It is one of the most beautiful and amusing of pets. 
The man who could watch kittens' "gambolling excessive," 
as Hurdis calls it, and not laugh, must have had a death- 
rattle as his only plaything when a baby. Richelieu and 
Colbert delighted in cats' company. Wriothesley's pet 
found him out in prison, and was his solace. Mahomet, 
rather than disturb his cat, which was asleep on it, cut off 
the skirt of his robe. Pope Gregory made his cat a cardinal. 
How Gautier liked them. Do you remember Zizi (which 
means "too beautiful for anything") that had a nose like a 
truffle and adored books ? or that otjier which had a resem- 
blance to a tiger, which he found, he says, " very pleasing ; " 
the cat that saw the parrot and said, "This is decidedly 
— yes it is — a green chicken ! " 

Xot only is their unconscious absurdity immense, but 
they have a deliberate appreciation of humour. They 
know exactly when they are being played with and when 
teased — Montaigne "playing with his cat, complains she 
thought him but an ass." 

" Ye who can smile — to wisdom no disgrace 
At the arch meaning of a kitten's face," 

must remember many a time and oft when the small thing, 
with its elegant overtures to a frolic, has tempted you into 
joining it in a fit of nonsense. And how it acted all the 
time, the fluffy little impostor ! What an enthusiasm it 
obviously feigned for the trailing worsted, what desperate 
struggles it made believe to have with a tassel, how it 
pranced and cavorted, standing ridiculously on two legs 
and skipping sideways ! With what matchless art did it 
not pretend to get itself into inextricable difficulties with a 
chair leg, in order to show off a hundred pretty devices of 



340 The Poets Beasts. 

Uing with its paws, and then in an instant how it was 
up and off, with its tail all crooked, its ears anyhow, and an 
absurd affectation of being scared ! Or, when two are 
together and one is lazy, with what adroitness will the other 
beguile its companion into a romp, gradually coaxing it on 
:~ in an equal frenzy of light-heartedness with itself. 

" What intenseness of desire 
In her upward eye of fire ! 
With a tiger-leap half-way 

;he meets the c ming prey, 
Lets it go as fast, and then 
Has it in her power again : 
Now she works with three or four 
Like an Indian conjurer ; 
Quick as he in feats of art, 
Far beyond in joy of heart. 
Were her antics played in the c 
Of a thousand stande: 
Clapping hands with shout and - 
What would little tabby care 
For the plaudits of the crowd ? 
Over happy to be proud." 

No wonder children love them so. Their faces are as 
sweetly innocent as their own. Is it possible that these 
winning little fluffinesses could ever descend to the surrepti- 
tious consumption of the family canary ? or that such guile- 
less faces could ever be stained with the purloined bloater? 
Their delightful little cosy bodies seem made for a baby's 
cuddling. Their natures are curiously alike. A kitten will 
seldom take offence at what a little child does to it — and the 
outrageous liberties taken with pussy are sometimes dreadful 
to contemplate. I have seen a small boy go through a 
meal with a kitten held in bagpipe fashion under his arm ; 
and the poor animal stayed there with a half-squeezed look on 
its face that was infinitely pathetic, but made no complaint, 
lis confidence in the child carried it through the ordeal. 



Some Poets' Cats. 341 

It knew lie would not do it if it was not all right. And so 
it was ; for by-and-by the boy got the kitten and a saucer 
of milk together, and, though there was a good deal 
of unnecessary bobbing of its nose into the milk, the 
kitten took it all as meant in kindness, and, when it had 
had its face dried on a pinafore, was ready for another 
romp. 

But they can scratch when they are put out, as Joanna 
Baillie's fat Tommy found — 

" He did her hinder parts assail, 
And pinched and pulled the kitten's tail. 
On this her sudden anger rose, 
She turned and straightway scratched his nose." 

But it is of course the good-humoured and playful kitten 
that chiefly attracts the poets. Many such are to be found 
gamboling in verse : Wordsworth's yellow one, playing with 
the falling leaves — 

"Over-wealthy in the treasure 
Of her own exceeding pleasure ; " 

Gray's tortoiseshell tabby, " the pensive Selina," that got 
drowned trying to catch gold-fish — 

" Malignant Fate sate by and smiled, 
The slipp'ry verge her feet beguiled — 
She tumbled headlong in. 
Eight times emerging from the flood, 
She mewed to every wat'ry god 
Some speedy aid to send. 
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred, 
Nor cruel Tom nor Susan heard — 
A fav'rite has no friend ! 
From hence, ye beauties undeeeived, 
Know one false step is ne'er retrieved, 
And he with caution bold. 
Not all that tempts your wand'ring eyes 
And heedless hearts is lawful prize — 
Nor all that glitters gold ; " 



342 The Poets Beasts. 

:ittens of Cowper that found the snake in the garden, 
and Hurdis, "cuffing the suspended cork," of Blomfield and 
Gay, and a score of others who delight in "the instinct joy 
of kittens," and " the kitling ever happy." By-and-by, and 
all too soon, they grow into cats. 

"And so, poor kit ! must thou endure, 
"\V;.en thou becomest a cat demure, 
Full many a cuff and angry word, 
Chased roughly from the tempting board. 
But yet, for that thou hast, I ween, 
So oft our favoured playmate been, 

e the change which thou shalt prove ! 
en lime hath spoiled thee of our love, 
e thou deemed by housewife fat, 
A comely, careful, mousing cat ; 
Whose dish is, for the public good, 
lenished oft with savoury food. 
:, when thy span of life is past, 
Be thou to pond or dung-hill cast ; 
But, gently borne on gardener's spade, 
Beneath the decent sod be laid ; 
And children show, with glistening eyes, 
The place where p<jor old pussy lies. " 

In connection with the adage that the cat has nine lives 
— found very useful, by the way. in verse — a very delightful 
instance of what Bain would call eccentric ratiocination 
occurs in Barry Cornwall. The line is this — 

" One bite of a mad cat — no more than would kill a tailor.'' 

The relation here of a nine-lived cat (each cat being really, 
therefore, only a ninth of one) to a tailor who, they say, is 
only the ninth of a man, is, it seems to me, most humor- 
ously involved. 

For myself, I discredit the theory of sartorial fractions, 
and hold with the poet (Taylor) who says — 

"Some foolish knave, I think, it first began 
The slander that three tailors make one man." 



Some Poets' Cats. 343 

I always feel inclined to retort upon it with the other adage 
that " 'tis the tailor makes the man; " so in " King Lear" — 

"A tailor makes a man ? Ay, a tailor, sir ; " 

and hesitate to contribute my acquiescence in the circuitous 
arithmetic of the playwright who makes a character, on 
meeting eighteen tailors, cry out to them all, " Come on, 
I'll fight you both." The inadequate championship of 
Teufelsdrock does not satisfy me. He goes not far enough. 
I remember well enough what Petruchio says to his 
tailor — 

" O monstrous arrogance ! Thou liest, 

Thou thread, thou thimble, 

Thou yard, three-quarters, half 

Yard, quarter, nail, 

Thou flea, thou nit, thou winter-cricket, thou, 

Away, thou rag, thou quantity, thou remnant ! " 

and do not forget Montaigne's evidence. " I have," he 
says, " an honest lad to my taylor, who I never knew guilty 
of one truth — no, not when it had been to his advantage 
not to lye." 

But I remember also how Master Feeble, "the forcible 
Feeble," proved himself the best man of all Falstaffs 
recruits j with what discretion Robin Starveling played the 
part of Thisbe's mother before the Duke ; and carry it to 
their credit the public spirit of those stitchers of Tooley 
Street. 

" Give the gods a thankful sacrifice. When it pleaseth 
their deities to take the wife of a man from him, it shows 
to man the tailors of the earth." 

I have no wish to rehabilitate Urquiza of Paita, nor 
apologise for the tailor who pricked the elephant's trunk 
with his needle and got squirted with a puddle by Behemoth 
for doing so — except to say that I think the elephant was 
an ill-mannered beast to go thrusting several feet of trunk 



344 

into a tailor's shop. Nor do I ask to have that nur 
rhyme abolished which makes the tailors go forth to atl 
a snail, but retire defeated on seeing her horns. 

Yet, when I think of all the valiant tailors of St 
hesitate to believe that four-ar.d twenty of the trade sh 
have been panic-stricken at the spectacle of an enra 
snail. What shall we say of that Snip of Basie who kissed 
the dragon-princess? It is true that, the worst accom- 
plished, he turned and fled, leaving his victory incom: 
Not so much, perhaps, as a Hercules or a Sir Gawain would 
have done ; yet how many heroes had failed before 
tailor succeeded ! Then, again, there was that other who 
passed the night with a bear, and won the prince 
other who slew seven at a blow, and lived himself to be a 
king ; that brave journeyman whom De Quincey has n 
immortal for his courage. In many other ways they have 
been distinguished, these knights of the needle, from the 
father of Thumbling to that tailor of Yarrow who beat Mr. 
Tickler hollow at backgammon. Who was it charitably 
mended the bean, and who that sewed up the ship that 
smashed on the rocks? Oriental story is full of tailors of 
consequence. Remember that one who befriended Prince 
Amgiad when he fell among the fire-worshippers, and him 
that took in the poor hunchback who choked with a fish- 
bone. Was not Aladdin himself the sen of Mustapha the 
tailor ? — and a right good father he was, dying at last out 
of sheer grief at Aladdin's scapegrace ways. In I 
Mosque at Mecca there is a Tailors' ( 

But there is no need to accumulate such testimonies to 
the worth of the cross-legged craft — and not more use. For 
it has got into our system — into the British Constitution, 
in fact — that it takes nine tailors to make one man, and 
the equation will never probably be abandor. _ 
this digression let me return to Barry Cornwall and his mad 
cat and its nine liv 



Some Pods Ca/s. 5^5 

" Cats there lay, divers had been flayed and roasted, 
And after mouldy grown were toasted ; 
Then, selling not, a dish was ta'en to mince them, 
But still it seemed, the rankness did convince 'em, 
For here they w;.re thrown in with the melted pe\v:er, 
Yet drowned they not ; they had five lives in future." 

la every town a constant proportion of vagabond 

cats that have no homes : and what house is there that has 
not at one time or another mysteriously lost its cat? Now, 
is there no connection between these two phenomena ? For 
myself, I cannot help thinking that the "lost" cats are 
merely animals that, " to serve some private ends," have 
deliberately gone elsewhere. The gipsy instinct has over- 
taken them, and they have decamped in quest of adventure, 
and on the chance of "bettering" themselves. Some of 
them, perhaps, go away to die — for is it not a curious fact 
that so few of these pets ever die at home? But the 
majority simply disappear. The children are told pussy 
has "run away." By-and-by another cat comes; that is 
to say, it installs itself. No one probably invited it, but, as 
it was mewing very much, the hall door or the kitchen door 
was opened, and it was allowed to come in, on approbation. 
But the small stranger made itself at home at once, 
rubbed against the cook's petticoats — cats have an extra- 
ordinary instinct for cooks — and sat down in the very 
lie of the hearth opposite the fire, and there it re- 

vxl. 

here was no other cat in the house, it was taken on. 

. it must have come from somewhere, as certainly as 

its predecessor went somewhere ; so that perhaps there is a 

perpetual exchanging of cats going on. Everybody gets 

everybody else's in turn. 

This mysterious but periodical disappearance of the 
household pets finds, however, an explanation in the popular 
tradition that every cat has to spend one life out of its nine 



3 4 ^ The Poets Beasts. 

as a witch. The time comes when Death beckons to 
Grimalkin, and, whatever she is doing, she has to obey. 
it be for the ninth, and fatal time, there are no 
cor] r the decease, no dead cat lying 

in the garden, or on the outhouse roof, or wherever it may 
have been that the dread summons reached her. On each of 
the eight occasions the cat that had been simply vanished 
from the earth, and in the same instant reappeared in a 
new avatar. Tai (day* she is black to-day. But 

the supreme moment arrives at last. The ninth messen- 

is at the door. The cat, conscious of coming change, 
sits before the fire, looking into the heart of the blaze, and 
lost u ght A voice she dare not refuse to hear calls 

her away from the comfortable hearth, and she goes, pen- 
sively, out into the dark night. The wind blows shrill, the 
clouds are driving fast. She would like to go back to the 
fire and the cook. But something she may not resist draws 
her onward, farther into the garden, deeper into the gloom, 
bushes round her hide the lights of the house. In the 

..nee she hears the caterwauling of familiar voices. 
And while she sits, shivering, wondering, waiting, lo ! it 
all happens, and Grimalkin suddenly finds herself whisked 
off up into the sky. A long cloak streams backwards from 
her shoulders. A broomstick is between her legs. She is 
a witch. 

ral poets refer to her as a thing of " venomed spite 
and cruel scratch," "from a witch transformed." So in 
Southey's u Witch " — 

' ; 'What makes her sit there moping by herself, 
h no soul near her but that great black 
And do but look at her ! " 

and in Herrick's " Hag ' — 

• I a Jirty hair trace 
n a brace 



Some Poets' Cats. $\J 

Of black boar-cats to attend her, 
Who scratch at the moon 
And threaten at noon 
Of night from heaven to rend her." 

" Old Grimalkin's glaring eyes," so often a terror to " wee 
sleekit cowerin"' mice, are thus at times uncanny for human 
beings. Envy, " spitting spite," is symbolised as a cat. 

Not that the familiar of the " wise woman " seems to 
take any very active part in her unkind performances. Her 
function appears to be that of a tacit accomplice — one who 
looks on at the wickednesses of the Black Art without 
actually putting her hand to any particular villainy. She 
is the sleeping partner of the confederacy. Sometimes, 
indeed — as in the story where the witch's cat is grateful 
to the good girl who has given it some ham to eat— the 
dabbler in occult science is even beneficent. 

In Sicily — where the animal is sacred to St. Martha 
— the cats that walk on the pantiles in the month of 
February are supposed to be witches, and as such con- 
sidered worthy of death. Somewhat analogous is our own 
" March cat," which combines with the eccentricity of the 
" March hare " a suspicion of necromantic leanings and 
diabolic conspiracy. 

Relativity, thy name is Cat. It is not easy to imagine 
Grimalkin in a vacuum, isolated, alone in space. As easy 
to think of matter without giving it form as to conceive 
puss without either a hearth, a mouse, or a dog. 

" Not such thy spirit when insulted, puss, » 

Scampers the garden path, and climbs alert 
The high espalier, there to dwell and swear, 
Or, in close corner pent, upheaves her coat, 
And blust'ring cuffs thee with vindictive claw." 

"Dire foe of mouse," "Grimalkin to domestic vermin 
sworn an everlasting foe." Such are the usual "connota- 
tions," if I may use the word, of the cat in verse. She 



34S The Pods' Beasts. 

is the "mouse-eater," and because the poets, who dislike 
mice, applaud her taste, becomes the "harmless necessary 
cat'' 

It is a curious fact, however, that classic legend makes 
this animal the protector of the innocent : that in Hindoo 
mythology she is sometimes the ally of little birds, and that 
in monkish tradition St Gertrude, a funereal saint, who is 
the patroness of mice, is also the protector of cats. More- 
. puss, in occasional myths, is the crony of the dog, and 
figures as the protector of poultry from the fox, of lambs 
from wol. - 

On the other hand, " the vermin-hunter n is a much 
more frequent character. " By the austerity which it prac- 
: on the banks of the Ganges it inspires confidence 
in the birds, who gather round it to pay reverence to its 
sanctity. The mice imitate their example, and place them- 
es under the cat's tutorship. The cat of course eats 
them, and by inducing them to go with it only two or three 
at a time, grows mysteriously fat for a fakir/' This assump- 
tion of sanctimoniousness is not an uncommon characteristic 
of the cat of fable. "II fait le saint, il fait la chattel" 
The oldest of all myths shows us the cat moon eating 
the grey mice of twilight That Diana, a lunar divinity, 
should have taken the feline form is therefore strictly in 
accordance with the original Aryan fancy ; and so, too, we 
find Freyya. the Scandinavian Selene, drawn sometimes by 
a team of cats. 

But it pleases me immensely to remark how this little 
animal of contradictions and perplexities puzzle mytho- 
They'mix it up with the lynx and the ichneumon 
and the mole. These are thieving, hunting, secret animals, 
and so are distorted into the myth-phrases of night, and the 
nocturnal forest, and so forth. In the Sanskrit, so we are 
assured, the same epithet is indiscriminately applied to cat 
ar.d thief. It is in fact the beast "of three letters." So 



Sonic Pods Cats. 349 

also, in Vcdic metaphor, the cat is "the cleanser," the one 
that washes its face, and also " the hunter ; " as the white 
cat, the moon, it protects innocent animals; as a black cat, 
the dark night, it persecutes them. " It is easy," says 
Gubernatis, " to pass from the Latin mustela to the Sanskrit 
mushikautakrit." But then Gubernatis can stretch farther 
with a foot-rule than any other man, and to go from a stoat 
to a cat because the names happen in Sanskrit and Latin to 
begin with the same letter of the alphabet (which is all they 
really do) is to him the most natural transition in the world. 
Yet if there is one Grimalkin more puzzling than another it 
is surely " the cat in the bag of proverbs." 

Our mousers, however, seem to have declined deplorably 
from their old standards of diligence and dexterity. In 
other respects the type has been immeasurably improved. 
The size of some of these animals gives promise that before 
long we shall have cats to rival that Brobdingnagian creature 
that purred like a dozen stocking-weavers at work and 
thought Gulliver too small an insect to run after, and carry- 
ing such a fleece as shall make the shearing of cats an 
operation of commercial value. In beauty we have Grimal- 
kins that would have driven Egypt mad with envy ; while 
for downright wild-beastishness what can we have fiercer- 
looking than the Russian lynx-like breed ? 

As a rule, people look upon cats as being without variety. 
They know that these animals catch mice, have evil designs 
upon cream-jugs and canaries, scratch Baby, and hold melan- 
choly concerts in the back garden. But beyond these points, 
common to all the species, the great majority of people have 
no standards of distinction. It is true that the creatures 
vary in colour, but somehow, as a rule, we lump them all 
together into the common or garden cat, and regard them as 
being of a monotonous sort. Yet there is just as much 
variety in a Cat-show as among the pippins in a Chiswick 
" Apple Congress," or the chrysanthemums at the Temple. 



OJ 



o T/ic Poets Beasts. 



Some, for instance, are pure wild animals in miniature. 
One is an undeniable lynx, only half-size, and another a 
mimic ocelot ; a third imitates the puma, and a fourth is 
an excellent imitation of a raccoon. In colour of course the 
. e is very large, from pure whites and blacks to smudged 
tortoiseshells. Some wear the pelts of rabbit and hare, 
others the soft blue greys of the lemurs or the silvery fur 
of the Arctic foxes. They are biotched, and barred, and 
brindled, "ring-straked, speckled, and spotted," their pat- 
terned ;kins producing in combination or by accident of posi- 
tion the most singular results of expression. Indeed, nothing 
is more surprising than the immense diversity of character 
which the faces illustrate. Placid dignity and street-boy 
impudence are caged side by side, and a very little trouble 
would give an artist the whole series of human types. The 
cat with a black blotch in the middle of a white counten- 
ance is obviously a burglar among his kind, and what deeds 
of midnight violence would be too dreadful for some of 
those smudged-faced Toms to commit. They seem to 
have deliberately disguised themselves, as if they were 
Thugs out on a murderous errand, and peer at you. as from 
behind a mask, from a confusion of red and tan and black 
fur like the demon cat of the Japanese. One would almost 
heshate to leave such a cat alone in a room with one's 
purse. 

Yet, all the same, in spite of their Merovingian length 
of disorderly fur, or their furious aspect, in spite too of 
their surpassing elegance of colour and form, a suspicion 
widely prevails that the town-cat is abandoning its taste fur 
mice. 

Daily familiarities with milkmen, the certainty of regular 
and ample meals, have dulled its appetite for the chase. 
Though it may not have forgotten that the mouse is tooth- 
some, it remembers more than it used to do that the mouse 
is nimble, and very troublesome to catch. An ordinary < at 



Some Poets'. Cats. 



03 



will studiously devote a whole day to the circumvention of 
the lodger's canary rather than spend an hour upon the 
landlady's rats. A single bullfinch in the drawing-room is 
worth a wilderness of mice in the pantry. 

*' Let take a cat, foster her wilh milk, 
And tender flesh, and make her couch of silk, 
And let her see a mouse go by the wall, 
Anon she scorneth milk and flesh and all, 
And every dainty that is in that house, 
Such appetite hath she to eat the mouse. 
Lo here hath kind her domination, 
And appetite o'ercomes discretion.'' 

This may be an allusion to that fable in ^Esop where the 
youth " falls in love " with a cat, and in a moment of caprice 
calls upon Venus to change the pretty animal into a pretty 
woman. The goddess does so. But the happy couple 
have hardly met before a mouse happens to run by and the 
bride rushes away in feline pursuit — "and appetite o'er- 
comes discretion." 

However diligent and habitual mousing may have been 
a characteristic of cats in Chaucer's time, it may even be 
true still. But yet there is abundant proof for the accusation 
that mouse-catching has become for the town-cat a mere 
pastime, or at best an avocation, a parergon. Just as the 
town-sparrow now only eats insects by way of dessert, as it 
were, and never goes among trees except for an occasional 
picnic, so the cat amuses itself, of a wet afternoon, over the 
mouse-hole in the cupboard — and as often as not goes to 
sleep at her post. 

If there be any other just cause of complaint against 
this pretty little favourite, it is surely its habit of vociferous 
dialogue during our hours of sleep. "Foul night-waking 
cats," "clamorous o'er their joys," "who amant miscic ' 
(Shelley). How heartily the poets hated it. 



The Poets Beasts. 

■• I would rather hear cat-courtship 
er my bedroom wind a 

is the worst that Sou they can say of odious sounds. Nor 
is it easy to imagine any disturbance of slumber more exas- 
perating than the melancholy love-makings of cats when 
they foregather immoderately on the garden wall and pro- 
long their woeful canticles into the hours of dawn — the 
dismal soliloquy uttered 

•• From the depths of a divine despair " 

that by-and-by becomes a gruesome dialogue, in which the 
two voices rise in unison, from the expression of a profound 
longing, cavernous and sepulchral, up and up and up 
through the scale of sharpening grief to the utmost peaks of 

::sh, and then in a frenzied climax the two hearts break 
as one in a piercing discord of mutual appeal. 

Is all over? Are the two cats lying dead? Did their 

: hearts burst their little bodies in that last unspeakable 
moment of tender desr . t a bit of it. Listen. J 

are beginning again, e: -.ere they began before, at 

the "JDe prvfundis" and they will climb up the keys ii 

isely the same abominable crescendo of misery, and when 
can no longer restrain the pent-up torrent of their tor- 
tured affections they will mingle their voices in one wild 
shattering yell of pity for themselves. 

Vet though the householder empties the phials of his 
wrath — and, if of a choleric soul, also all the movable 
trifles about the bedroom that may seem to an exasperated 
imagination suitable for throwing — upon the wretches for 
their nocturnal ululations, there comes with daylight a 
milder frame of mind. The tranquil spectacle of pussy 
snugly curled up in front of the fire routs all suspicions as 
to its having had any share in the outrageous frolics that 
broke the s'.umbers of the household, and causes the dis- 
turbances of over-night to be placed to the discredit of the 



Some Poets' Cats. 353 

cat " next door." The truth is, we are all too fond of our 
cats to continue long in wrath with them. 

Yet in fable and fairy tale they are not treated with the 
tenderness and consideration one would expect for such a 
universal favourite, and the poets accept this tendency of 
folk-lore to laugh at and depreciate Grimalkin. All the 
cat-poems banter the animal, or place it in a ridiculous 
light. Besides those already noted, there is Allan Ramsay's 
fable of the cats and the cheese, of which the monkey ate 
two-thirds in trying to make an exactly equal division, and 
kept the other third for his trouble. In the fable of the 
cat and the fox that reproach the wolf for killing a lamb, 
and immediately go off and kill a chicken themselves, as 
also in the stories where the cat is fooled by the mice, made 
to take the hot nuts off the bars by the ape, and beguiled 
into the oven by the sparrows, the motive seems always to 
turn the laugh against puss. 

In Cowper's poem of the "Retired Cat," an excellent 
illustration is given of the creature's complacent self-assur- 
ance that everything in a household is specially arranged 
with relation to its own comforts. She finds the garden 
draughty, and, searching the house for a convenient couch, 
"some place of more serene repose," discovers an open 
drawer half-filled with linen of "the softest kind, such as 
merchants introduce, from India for the ladies' use," and 
curls herself up for sleep "lulled by her own humdrum 
song." By-and-by Susan, "housewifely inclined," comes in 
and shuts the drawer, " all unconscious whom it held," — 
pussy taking it for granted that this is done for her greater 
tranquillity. 

" Was ever cat attended thus? 
The open drawer was left, I see, 
Merely to prove a nest for me ; 
For soon as I was well composed, 
Then came the maid, and it was closed. 

7. 



354 Poets Basts. 

How smooth these kerchiefs, and how swe . 
Oh what a delicate re: 
I will resign myself to rest 
"ec'.ining in 
. call to supper, when, no doubt, 
Susan will come and let me out." 

But Susan does nc I :- cat nea: 

. beware of too sublime a sense 
di own worth and consequence : 
The man who dreams himself so g 
And his importance of such we . 
That all around and . ne 

Must move and act for him alone, 
Will learn in 9( bulation 

The folly of his expe [ 

Even the fact of their having been worshipped ir. I 
brings them little credit : it only makes Egyptian worship 
discreditable — 

'• Cats and dogs, and each obscener beast, 
To which Egyptian dotards once did bow." 

Or again — 

'• Lang syne in Egypt beasts were gods, 
Sae : I the men turned t t 

Vermin and brutes, boot house or hold, 
Had offerings, I 1 their pri. 

And then the poet goes on to say how one day the people 
of the Nile sacrificed a rat to the great glory c I and 

next day a cat to the great glory of the rat. 

Not thai their worship is means extinct. You 

have only to go to a Cat-show to be assured of the 
survival of the whimsical homage of Memphis. Bubastis, and 
Thebes. The old-world dignities of priestly service, temple 
ceremonial, and posthumous embalming have of course 
been lost in the lapse of time, but their place has been 



Some Poets Cats. 355 

filled by a homage which is certainly more intelligent and 
scarcely less sincere. The days are long gone by when, to 
bury a cat, processions of white-robed Egyptians, crowned 
with convolvulus, acacia, and chrysanthemum, trailed their 
effigies of water-beast and reptile, and images of dog-headed 
or hawk-headed gods, with the clashing of cymbals and the 
singing of the choirs of Isis, down through long aisles 
of reverent folk, from the Memphian temple-gates to the 
catacombs under the rocks. 

It is to this day a fetish animal. Indeed, in Siam, a 
curious variation of the cult obtains. For there, in the 
land of the White Elephant, there is a royal breed of cats, 
and, so it is said, it is death for any one to take one beyond 
the precincts of the palace. The colour of these illustrious 
Grimalkins is very striking, being something between buff 
and tan, with ears, nose, and other " points " jet-black. 
Indeed, with a little trimming here and there, they might 
easily pass for tolerable pug-dogs. But we need hardly go 
so far as Bangkok for vestiges of the old worship, for it is 
obvious to the most casual observer at a Cat-show, from the 
epithets applied by visitors to the animals under exhibition 
and the exclamations of pious rapture, that there are plenty 
of persons of both sexes, who, if they do not actually set puss 
up on an altar and sacrifice to it with music and incense and 
temple rites, as was done in the palmy days of the Pharaohs, 
are sufficiently in love with the species to be enthusiastic in 
admiration. To hear a fierce old Russian cat described as 
"adorable," and a snowy Persian apostrophised as " divine," 
bridges over the interval between the Crystal Palace and 
the cat temples of Bubastis, and narrows the chasm some- 
what between Pharaoh-Necho and the cats'-meat man. 

And the modern taxidermist, as well as he can, has taken 
up the duties of the priests, and where the creatures of the 
Egyptians' adoration used to be spiced, they are now 
stuffed. 



356 The Poets Beasts. 

Instead of lying swathed in cloths and steeped in 
aromatic gums within a syenite sarcophagus, Puss stands in 
the back parlour, and fixes with her glassy eye the new 
tenant of the hearth-rug, and, from the cold neutrality of 
wires and wadding, gazes upon the domestic circle of which 
once /<7/-jt magna fuit. 



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